Health Blog

Welcome to the ongoing series of blog posts from UTMB Health focusing on key aspects of maintaining your health

Heart Health at UTMB Health

Early Warning Signs of Heart Attacks

Always listen to your body. If something does not feel right, then something is possibly wrong. SOME heart attacks are sudden and intense. MOST start slow with mild pain and/or discomfort

Warning signs may be:

  • Chest discomfort in the center of the chest that feels like uncomfortable pressure, pain, squeezing or fullness (may mimic indigestion)
  • Shortness of breath (with or without chest pain/discomfort)
  • Nausea, lightheadedness, and/or breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Other areas of pain or discomfort, such as one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • If you are experiencing any of these early warning signs, call 911 immediately

Are heart attack symptoms different between men and women? YES

Women typically experience these symptoms prior to a heart attack:

  • Unexplained dizziness, nausea, exhaustion, or feeling drained
  • Upper back pain that travels to the jaw
  • Stomach pain that is commonly attributed to heartburn, ulcers or the flu
  • Pain and numbness in one or both arms, or side of chest
  • Some women state feeling flu-like symptoms

What is the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

  • A heart attack is a circulatory problem in which blood flow to the heart is blocked
  • Cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. This is typically caused by arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms)
  • A heart attack can be the cause of cardiac arrest.

There are three types of heart attacks:

  • Type 1 – a stop you in your tracks, sudden and intense heart attack
  • Type 2 – you are conscious, but experiencing intense chest pain or pressure (early heart damage is taking place)
  • Type 3 – mild pain or discomfort, the heart attack is just beginning (most difficult time to get someone help because they dismiss the pain or deny that it is heart related)

How can you reduce your risk for heart attack?

  • Eat a healthy diet with vegetables and lean meats (chicken, fish, turkey)
  • Increase your level of activity
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage glucose levels, if diabetic
  • Reduce your stress level with activities or exercise