Know the Signs

Heart Attack

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, others start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Often people aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help.

Here are the signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

If you or someone you’re with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don’t wait to call for help. Call 911, your local emergency medical service (EMS) or get to the hospital right away.

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If you notice one or more of these signs, don’t wait, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY. Stroke is a medical emergency and minutes matter.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

This simple test will help you detect stroke symptoms and Act F.A.S.T.:

F = FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A = ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T = TIME If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911 or get to the nearest stroke center or hospital.

University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center’s Stroke Center is certified by the Joint Commission and accredited by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Systems.

Remember that when it comes to a stroke, early treatment with thrombolytics and t-PA can improve a patient’s chance for a full recovery. So get to the hospital as soon as possible. Treatment should begin within three to four hours to be most effective.

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