How to spot signs of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest

By the American Heart Association

 

Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies — every second counts. If you see or have any of the listed symptoms, immediately call 911 or your emergency response number. Not all these signs occur in every heart attack or stroke. Sometimes they go away and return. If some occur, get help fast!

Today heart attack and stroke victims can benefit from new medications and treatments unavailable to patients in years past. For example, clot-busting drugs can stop some heart attacks and strokes in progress, reducing disability and saving lives. But to be effective, these drugs must be given relatively quickly after heart attack or stroke symptoms first appear. So again, don’t delay — get help right away!

 

Heart attack warning signs

Signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort (left) and discomfort in other areas of the upper body (right). (Image courtesy of the American Heart Association.)

Signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort (left) and discomfort in other areas of the upper body (right). (Image courtesy of the American Heart Association.)

  • Chest discomfort

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

 

Stroke warning signs

Spot a stroke FAST:

  • Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 911: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.

 

Cardiac arrest warning signs

  • Sudden loss of responsiveness
  • No response to tapping on shoulders
  • No normal breathing

 

Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 911 or your emergency response number.

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