Warning signs of a heart attack

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. Doctors say many people don’t even recognize the warning signs of a heart attack.

According to the Heart Foundation, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds in the United States. And every 60 seconds, someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event. There are about 720,000 people in the United States that suffer heart attacks each year. Of these, 515,000 are a first heart attack and 205,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, there are several things in which people should look out for including:

• Chest discomfort (discomfort in the center of the chest that last for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back)

• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (arms, back, neck, jaw, stomach)

• Shortness of breath

Other common signs of a heart attack include breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling extreme fatigue for no known reason, nausea and vomiting, and feeling dizzy or light-headed.

What causes a heart attack? A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood becomes blocked and the heart cannot receive oxygen. Most heart attacks occur as a result of having coronary heart disease, which is a condition caused by a buildup of plaque inside the coronary arteries. These arteries are essential because they are responsible for providing oxygen to your heart. Most people don't even know they have heart disease until they have a heart attack. A common warning sign is frequent angina, or chest pain.

What does a heart attack feel like?

• Weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath

• Pain or pressure in the chest

• Nausea, indigestion, or heartburn

• Fast or irregular heartbeats

• Discomfort spreading to the back, jaw, throat, or arm

Who is at risk for a heart attack?

There are risk factors you can control, and risk factors that you cannot control. The risk factors you can control include smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, being overweight or obese, eating an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and having high blood sugar.

The risk factors you cannot control include your age, having a family history of heart disease, preeclampsia (occurs during pregnancy).

If you feel chest pain or discomfort, or any other potential warning signs of a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately.