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Know the Symptoms: Heart Attack and Stroke Warning Signs

UW Health Services

Heart and Vascular Care

 

Emergency Card

Emergency Information Card (pdf)

checking blood pressureWhen a person is experiencing one or more warning signs of heart attack or stroke, calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment.
 
Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive - up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. The EMS staff is also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. And you will get treated faster at the hospital if you arrive by ambulance.

Emergency Information Card

Post an Emergency Information Card by your phone if you have land line, or in a visible location in your home. The card will help someone calling 9-1-1 with your address and other critical information. Print your own with this pdf

 

Carry an emergency information card in your purse or wallet.  This will provide vital information for people trying to help or care for you.

 
And remember, if you're the one having symptoms, and you can't access EMS, have someone drive you to the hospital right away. Don't drive yourself.
 
Heart Attack Warning Signs
 
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, causing someone to gasp dramatically, clutch her heart and drop to the ground. No one has any doubts about what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often the people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help.
 
Here are some of 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
    This feeling may occur with or without chest discomfort.
     
  • Other Signs of Discomfort
    These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Women's Heart Attack Symptoms

 

As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly:

  • Pain between or behind shoulder blades
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Back or jaw pain

If you or someone you are with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don't wait longer than five minutes before calling 9-1-1 for help.

 

Stroke Warning Signs

 

Stroke is a medical emergency. Learn to recognize a stroke, because time lost is brain lost. Warning signs include:

  • 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

Not all these warning signs occur in every stroke. If you or someone with you has one or more stroke symptoms that last more than a few minutes, don't delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the EMS number so an ambulance - ideally with advanced life support - can quickly be sent to you.