The three sudden signs indicating you’re having a heart attack

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A heart attack occurs when an artery to the heart becomes totally blocked and the blood flow to part of the heart stops. This causes a deprivation of oxygen to the heart and part of the heart muscle starts to die. If a piece of fatty material breaks off, a blood clot forms to repair the damage caused to the artery wall. This blood clot blocks the coronary artery leading to the heart muscles being starved of oxygen and blood and thus causing a heart attack. 

Although heart attack symptoms vary from one person to another, according to the British Heart Foundation, here are the three most common signs of a heart attack:

Pain or discomfort in your chest that suddenly occurs and doesn’t go away.

Pain that may spread to your left or right arm, or to your neck, jaw, back or stomach. For some people the pain or tightness is severe, while other people just feel uncomfortable.

Feeling sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.

“It’s possible to have a heart attack without experiencing the above symptoms or ‘classic’ chest pain.

“This is more common in the elderly, women, or those with diabetes as the condition can cause nerve damage which can affect how you feel pain,” explained the health site.

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the centre of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or it may go away and then return.

It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Other common heart attack signs and symptoms include a pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back.

Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain may also occur.

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The British Heart Foundation discussed what you should do if you suspect you are having a heart attack and said: “The first thing to do if you think you’re having a heart attack is to phone 999 immediately for an ambulance.

“Don’t worry if you’re not completely sure whether your symptoms are a heart attack, it’s important that you seek medical attention regardless.

“If you are having a heart attack you must sit down and remain calm. Take a 300mg aspirin if you have one within reach and wait for the paramedics.”


According to the NHS, the treatment options for a heart attack depend on whether you’ve had an ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), or another type of heart attack.

“A STEMI is the most serious form of heart attack and requires emergency assessment and treatment. It’s important you’re treated quickly to minimise damage to your heart,” warned the health body.

Fortunately, there are steps people can take to ward off the threat of a heart attack. Smoking is a significant risk factor for example.

According to the American Heart Association, the risk that smokers will develop coronary heart disease is much higher than that for non-smokers.

There are a number of other ways you can keep your heart health, as advised by the NHS.

These include:

  • Giving up smoking
  • Getting active – doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week
  • Managing your weight
  • Eating more fibre – aim for at least 30g a day
  • Cutting down on saturated fat
  • Getting your five fruit and vegetables a day
  • Cutting down on salt
  • Eating fish
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Reading the food label to see how many calories and how much, fat, salt and sugar the product contains

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