Published on February 01, 2019

heart on a calendar

Heart Month: Recognizing a Heart Attack

February marks the start of American Heart Month. One of the reasons a whole month is dedicated to heart health is because heart disease is the leading cause of death in America.

Even though many people suffer from heart disease, less than a third of people can recognize the major symptoms of a heart attack.

When it comes to heart attacks, every minute matters. The faster help is called, the less damage can be done. So how can you tell if someone is having a heart attack?

“Chest discomfort is the most common symptom of heart attack,” says Avni Jain, MD, a family medicine physician with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group. “The pain can be described as a pressurized or squeezing sensation in the center of the chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw and back. It may persist or go away after a few minutes.”


  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Indigestion

Dr. Jain says if you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately. In the meantime, follow all directions by emergency personnel on how to reduce the risk of further heart damage. Common recommendations include taking aspirin, nitroglycerin or administering CPR if the person is unconscious.

Sources: The American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only.  For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.

Set Your Location

Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.