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Heart disease health centre

10 heart attack symptoms never to ignore

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Coronary heart disease is the UK's biggest killer. About 1 in 6 men and 1 in 10 women die from it.

Most deaths from coronary heart disease are caused by a heart attack and every 7 minutes someone in the UK suffers a heart attack.

One of the reasons it's so deadly is that people may be too slow to seek help when symptoms arise.

We all know the signs of a classic Hollywood heart attack. A middle-aged man gripped by sudden chest pain falling to the floor.

In real life heart attack symptoms may not be so intense or obvious and they vary from person to person.

Experts say don't ignore possible warning signs. Don't wait to see if they go away, or be quick to blame them on heartburn, a pulled muscle or tiredness.

That's especially true for those with coronary heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, diabetes or a family history of heart disease.

Head in sand mentality

Most of us want to just ignore any potential symptoms and hope they go away on their own. It's embarrassing to make a fuss if it turns out to be a false alarm. But, this is the worst attitude to have with a possible heart attack. Speed is vital. If you think you're having a heart attack ring 999. The faster you get treatment the better your chance of survival.

According to the British Heart Foundation, many people fail to recognise the symptoms and 1 in 3 heart attack victims die before they get to hospital.

"Severe indigestion can feel like a heart attack but call an ambulance straight away if you aren't sure," says Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse with the charity.

"Get to hospital as fast as you can as the quicker you are treated the less damage is done to the heart muscle."

Here are 10 symptoms that may signal heart trouble:

1. Chest pain.

Pain in the chest is common when you are having a heart attack. However, it doesn’t always occur.

"The most common symptom is chest pain and severe discomfort," says Amy from the BHF.

It may be centred on the breastbone or slightly to the left.

2. Pain elsewhere.

The pain isn't always confined to the chest. It can be experienced in other areas.

"Pain can radiate to other parts of the body," says Amy, "it usually starts on the left side but it can begin on the right side, then reach up to the neck and jaw."

There may be no chest pain just pain in areas like the abdomen, either or both arms, or between the shoulders.

US research published in 2012 involving more than a million people found that among heart attack patients, 42% of women and around 30% of men arrived at hospital without any chest pain or discomfort.

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