Millions of people around the world have heart attacks each year. A heart attack , or myocardial infarction (MI), is permanent damage to the heart muscle. "Myo" means muscle, "cardial" refers to the heart, and "infarction" means death of tissue due to lack of blood supply.
Here are six symptoms that indicate you might be having a heart attack:
Though most heart attacks don’t make you suddenly lose consciousness, they can reduce or cut off blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart and brain, which may cause you to feel light-headed.
Unless you’re going through menopause or have just exercised, breaking out into a cold sweat or perspiring excessively could signal a heart attack, which activates the nervous system.
Feeling worn out after a sleepless night or stressful day is normal. But more than half of women feel extremely tired or weak more than a month before having a heart attack, even though they haven’t exerted themselves.
4. Shortness of breath
If workouts inexplicably seem harder, see your doctor. If you suddenly feel like you just ran up stairs and can’t catch your breath when you’re not doing much, or the feeling rouses you from sleep, go to the emergency room.
5. Upper-body pain
Our heart doesn’t have many nerve endings, so it sometimes shares a pathway with nerves to other body parts, causing pain to radiate to the back, shoulders, arms, neck or jaw. Some women say it feels as if an elephant is sitting on their back.
A heart attack may cause nausea, which is twice as likely to occur in women than in men. (Many also feel like they’re getting the flu days before a heart attack.) If you have sudden and constant nausea that doesn’t seem food-related, take action.
What do you do when you notice these symptoms?
If you experience any of the symptoms on this page and they’re relatively mild, don’t hesitate to call your doctor, as they could indicate a heart attack is imminent. (About half are preceded by symptoms days beforehand).