Heart attacks are considered a medical emergency and can be life-threatening. They happen when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. A lack of blood to the heart may seriously damage the heart muscle, triggering a heart attack. The most obvious symptom of a heart attack is chest pain – which is described as a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of the chest.
The chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, states the NHS.
The pain can also spread from the chest to the arms, jaw, neck, back and abdomen.
Although chest pain associated with a heart attack is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to a feeling of indigestion.
In addition, contrary to what many people think, pain doesn’t always come on suddenly. It may come on slowly, making it less obvious what you are experiencing is a heart attack.
In some cases, there may not be any chest pain at all, especially in women, the elderly and people with diabetes, according to the NHS.
Because chest pain can be minor or nor present at all, people may be fooled into thinking they are not having a heart attack when they actually are.
It’s therefore important to be aware of the other symptoms of a heart attack, so you know when to call an ambulance.
Aside from chest pain, there are six other main symptoms of a heart attack to watch out for.
These include feeling lightheaded or dizzy, sweating, shortness of breath, feeling or being sick, coughing or wheezing, and experiencing a feeling similar to a panic attack.
The NHS notes that it is the combination of symptoms that helps to determine whether you are having a heart attack.
“If you suspect the symptoms of a heart attack, dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance,” warns the NHS.
“Don’t worry if you have doubts. Paramedics would rather be called out to find an honest mistake has been made than be too late to save a person’s life.”
When waiting for an ambulance, it’s important for the patient to rest in order to avoid unnecessary strain on the heart.
If aspirin is easily available (and the patient isn’t allergic to it) it can be slowly chewed by the patient while waiting for the ambulance.
The aspirin helps to thin the blood and restore the heart’s blood supply.
If you suspect you are having a heart attack and aspirin is not easily available, don’t get up and look for it, as you may put extra strain on your heart.