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Heart attack: Symptoms of a heart attack can be confused with heartburn – when to dial 999


Heart attacks happen when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. A lack of blood to the heart can seriously damage the heart muscle, which can be life-threatening. Probably the most commonly known symptom of a heart attack is chest pain, but contrary to what many people believe chest pain associated with a heart attack is not always very severe. According to the NHS, during a heart attack you may feel a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of your chest.

The chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back.

However, although chest pain is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to that of heartburn or indigestion.

Pain doesn’t always come on suddenly, according to Bupa, and may come on slowly and be very mild.

In some cases, there may not be any chest pain at all. This is especially true in women, the elderly and people with diabetes.

So how do you know if the chest pain you are feeling is a sign of a heart attack?

According to the NHS, it’s the overall pattern of symptoms that helps to determine whether you are having a heart attack.

In addition to chest pain, symptoms of a heart attack include feeling lightheaded or dizzy, sweating, and feeling or being sick.

Shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, and a feeling similar to a panic attack are also symptoms.

“It’s important to stress that not everyone experiences severe chest pain; the pain can often be mild and mistaken for indigestion,” said the NHS.

“It’s the combination of symptoms that’s important in determining whether a person is having a heart attack, and not the severity of chest pain.”

If you suspect you or someone else is having a heart attack, dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

“Don’t worry if you have doubts. Paramedics would rather be called out to find an honest mistake has been made than be too late to save a person’s life,” advised the NHS.

When waiting for an ambulance, it’s important for the patient to rest in order to avoid unnecessary strain on the heart.

If aspirin is easily available (and the patient isn’t allergic to it) it can be slowly chewed by the patient while waiting for the ambulance.

The aspirin helps to thin the blood and restore the heart’s blood supply.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack and aspirin is not easily available, don’t get up and look for it, as you may put extra strain on your heart.


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