Lakeland Health Care

Act in Time to Heart Attack Warning Signs

30% of people experience a heart attack as their 1st symptom. This does not have to happen to you.

People often dismiss heart attack warning signs, such as chest pain, thinking they merely have heartburn or a pulled muscle. The unfortunate conclusion is that many people wait too long before getting help. We want you to recognize the early symptoms of a heart attack.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs, in most cases, when a vessel supplying the heart muscle with blood and oxygen becomes completely blocked. The vessel has become narrowed by a slow build-up of fatty deposits, made mostly of cholesterol. When a clot occurs in this narrowed vessel, it completely blocks the supply of blood to the heart muscle. That part of the muscle will begin to die if the individual does not immediately seek medical attention.

You don't really know if you are having a heart attack or not until you are seen by a doctor. Listen to Elaine's story.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest. The discomfort lasts for more than a few minutes or it may go away and come back. The discomfort may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the body. This may include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, stomach or even your legs
  • Shortness of breath may occur with or before chest discomfort
  • Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness. Treatments are most effective when they occur in the early stages of chest pain.

Heart Attack Warning Signs for Women

Heart attacks are often viewed as a man's problem when, in fact, more women in the U.S. die of heart disease each year than men. Probably because women are less likely than men to seek immediate treatment. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women who often think their symptoms are the result of heart burn or the flu.  

Women often experience signs and symptoms that are different from those that men experience. This is because smaller arteries may be blocked in women whereas men often have blockage in the main arteries. Warning signs for women include the following:  

  • Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest, spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw
  • Light-headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort
  • Lower chest discomfort
  • Back pain
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Time is Muscle; Time Wasted is Muscle Lost

This is a familiar slogan to nurses and physicians working in the emergency department (ED) when a patient enters with chest pain indicating that a heart attack is in progress. Loss of time is equated to loss of heart muscle, resulting in less life enjoyment that depends on physical activity. The cause of the heart attack is usually a complete blockage of one of the heart vessels; complete destruction of the muscle being supplied by that vessel occurs over a six-hour period of time.

It is important to note that 85% of muscle damage takes place within the first hour. This is often referred to as the “golden hour.” It is within this time frame that the heart vessel needs to be opened. If time is lost and the vessel is opened after this time frame, the benefit is much less. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that action be taken early. Thus the term, “Time is Muscle.” This is a truly an emergency.

The best way to stop the heart attack process is to detect the symptoms early, before damage to the heart muscle occurs. When considering whether or not to go to the hospital with chest discomfort, or chest pain, it is better to be safe than to be sorry. The heart muscle must be saved, and time is of the essence.

It is critical for those who experience any chest discomfort or pain to quickly get to the emergency department to be evaluated. It’s not the heart attack itself that kills; it is also the time wasted when one is trying to decide whether or not to go to the hospital.

Why Call 911?

More than 50% of all patients experiencing chest pain walk into the Emergency Department (ED) rather than calling 911. The reasons for this are numerous, ranging from the instinct to just jump in the car and drive to the nearest hospital to the misunderstanding that the emergency squad is just a transport vehicle. The fact remains: calling 911 starts treatment earlier.

  • 911 dispatchers are often trained to locate you quickly and assist you in early treatment options
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can diagnosis a heart attack by using an electrocardiogram (ECG) and initiate early treatment
  • Arriving by ambulance to the ED helps to ensure that you will not wait to be seen by a physician. Many patients who experience chest pain drive themselves, only to find that they may wait in the ED lobby until they can see the doctor.
  • EMS can radio ahead to the ED that you are on your way. This enables the ED staff to be ready for you when you arrive.



Don't take chances!
If you have chest pain or
other heart attack symptoms, call 911 immediately!

Do NOT drive yourself
to the hospital.


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