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Would you recognize a heart attack?
last updated:
Thu, 4/28/2011 1:11 PM

Would you recognize a heart attack? Symptoms of a heart attack are not the same for everyone. Most people think the only symptom of having a heart attack is extreme chest pain and the feeling of impending doom. Actually that is not typically the case. The most common symptom is shortness of breath but people present with different symptoms all the time. The majority of symptoms are listed below according to specific populations. These are the most frequent symptoms for each category but are certainly not the only ones each may present with a heart attack.

  • Men – Chest Pain, Jaw Pain, Abdominal Pain, Dizziness, Weakness, Shortness of Breath, Heart Pounding or Change in Rhythm, Sweating
  • Women – Generalized pain, Back Pain especially at the Shoulder Blades, Sleep Disturbances, GI Complaints such as nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, Heart Pounding, Sweating, Chest Pain as more sharp than crushing
  • Elderly – Shortness of Breath, Chest Pressure, Fainting, Mental Status Change or Confusion, Weakness, Fatigue
  • Diabetics – Atypical or no Chest Pain, Shortness of Breath, Sweating, Weakness

If you experience a sudden onset of any of these symptoms that do not resolve with rest and think you might be having a heart attack, what would you do? Drive yourself to the doctor or hospital? Call a family member or friend to drive you? No. You need to CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!!

What is so special about calling the EMS? You feel you can make it to the hospital without them, right? WRONG! All of our local EMS are trained to care for heart attack victims. Before you ever get to the hospital, you can expect:

  • EKG to show if you are actively having a heart attack
  • Oxygen
  • Medications
  • Advanced Life Support if needed
  • Calling ahead to let us prepare for your arrival

This will ensure you are given priority. If you are actively having a heart attack, we will have the cardiologist contacted and the Cardiac Catheterization Lab waiting. We certainly want to provide the best care possible and minimize any chance of disability or death.

Your responsibility in your cardiac health is to be knowledgeable regarding the symptoms of a heart attack and seek treatment immediately by calling 911.

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Keri Morris, R.N., BSN is a Chest Pain & Stroke Coordinator at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.

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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000

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