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Sioux City, IA 51104

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When Do Chest Pains Become More Than Just Pain? (Infographic)

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Difference between chest pains and heart attack

Heart disease affects the lives of many Americans and their families. With 600,000 people falling victim in the United States each year, understanding the main causes of heart attack and cardiac arrest is crucial.

Difference in cardiac arrest and heart attack

What Is A Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when blood flow bringing oxygen to the heart is critically cut off. This often happens when the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood flow become narrow from buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances called plaque.

While many of us feel that we are exempt from the possibility of heart attack and cardiac arrest, nearly 720,000 Americans had a heart attack in 2014. Early action is essential; it is crucial to prepare and understand the early warning signs to avoid these critical, life-threatening scenarios. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 47 percent of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside a medical facility, which demonstrates how many people are not aware of or ignore the initial warning signs.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • Discomfort in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes 
  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
  • Discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach

Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs

  • Sudden loss of responsiveness
  • Abnormal breathing 

Along with these initial warning signs, there are several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices that increase the risk for heart disease. These include:

  • Diabetes 
  • Overweight and obesity 
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity 
  • Excessive alcohol use 

Increasing your understanding and awareness of the primary causes of a heart attack and cardiac arrest could save you or a loved one when experiencing the life-threatening situation. With that, many Americans are not aware they are entering these serious beginning stages and decide to “work through it,” when they should be seeking immediate medical attention.

Here are a few scenarios where you should call 911 rather than “tough it out”:

1) You are relaxing after a long day of work and start to feel discomfort in your chest. After waiting a few minutes, you notice that the pain isn’t subsiding, and you begin to feel a shortness of breath.

2) You are taking a casual jog through your neighborhood, and you start to feel pain in your right arm accompanied by chest pains. You continue to run for a few more minutes without the pain subsiding.

3) It is a warm spring day, and you are taking time to organize and plant new flowers in your garden when you begin to experience a shortness of breath and break out in a cold sweat. The feeling doesn’t disappear and continues to get worse.

4) You have been sound asleep when you abruptly wake up in the middle of the night to a feeling of nausea assisted by throbbing in both arms. You lie there for a few more minutes when the feeling continues.

5) While sitting at your desk at work, you begin to feel a sharp pain in your chest with a sudden sense of lightheadedness. You close your eyes for a few minutes without the sensation easing.

It is important to have a plan in place for any emergency. If you or a loved one feel that something is not right, don’t hesitate to send a direct message to your primary care doctor using My UnityPoint. If you have further questions and it is the middle of the night, MyNurse is available at all hours. Don’t neglect the warning signs of a heart attack, fast care is crucial! If you or a loved one is having any heart attack symptoms that last more than five minutes, don’t delay calling 911.