Health Watch -- Know your Heart Attack Signs

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

A valentine isn't the only heart you should be thinking about.

If the month of February has a symbol, it's probably a shiny red heart - the kind that often comes filled with candy. But don't forget to think about that other heart -- the organ responsible for pumping blood throughout your body.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say it's important to know the symptoms of a heart attack so you'll know when to get emergency treatment.

Doctors say too many people wait too long before getting help for a heart attack, often because they don't realize that's what's happening. They just think they have a little indigestion.

Dr. James Atkins, a cardiologist and emergency medicine specialist at UT Southwestern, says to look for some key symptoms in addition to pain or discomfort in the chest. These signs include discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Women may not have chest pain at all. They may experience shortness of breath, lightheadedness or nausea.

If you experience these symptoms or notice someone around you experiencing these symptoms, Dr. Atkins says you should call 911 within five minutes. If you act quickly, you can reduce the chances of cardiac arrest, which means you're more likely to survive the heart attack and avoid serious damage to the heart muscle.


Feb. 2004