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How do I know if I am having a heart attack?

Individuals suffering a heart attack experience heart pain in different ways. Most commonly there is an onset of pain in the middle of the chest which is unrelieved by such measures as taking antacids or resting, or by placing a nitroglycerin tablet under the tongue. Most patients experiencing damage to the heart muscle, which is the source of heart attack pain, describe this event as a feeling of a heavy weight on their chest which may radiate to the arm, back, or up the neck.

In addition, sweating is often a strong component of the heart attack syndrome in the early moments of the event. Furthermore, patients sometimes feel nauseated, experience weakness, shortness of breath and may express feeling a sense of "impending doom". However, the actuality of a heart attack presenting with all of these components occurs only about half of the time, and oftentimes patients do not experience any of these classic symptoms.

Consequently, if you should experience unexplainable pain of this type which is not relieved by simple measures, medical help should be sought immediately to clarify the source of the problem. It is important not to experiment with or rely on antacids, exercising, or other maneuvers which may mislead or convince you that you are not having a heart attack. Furthermore, if you have previously been told that you have any problems of narrowing of the vessels or arteries supplying blood to the heart, or have previously experienced the symptoms of a heart attack, this pain should be taken very seriously and, again, medical attention should be sought immediately. Pain coming from the heart can also signify an early disorder in the circulation of blood in the heart.

As mentioned above, in the event that you have available physician-prescribed nitroglycerin tablets, one tablet should be placed under the tongue immediately. If the pain does not go away within five minutes, another nitroglycerin tablet should be administered under the tongue and an ambulance should be called. If the pain has still not subsided in another five minutes, a third nitroglycerin tablet may be taken. However, do not take a fourth nitroglycerin tablet. Seek medical attention immediately.

It is important to note that there are variances in heart pain and, when treated early, the likelihood of preventing a future heart attack is great.


Galichia Medical Group, P.A.
2600 N Woodlawn
Wichita, KS 67220

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