Know the Warning Signs of a Possible Heart Attack

The following are signs of a possible heart attack in both men and women:

  • Chest pressure, squeezing, burning or discomfort that may come and go
  • Pain that travels down one or both arms
  • Jaw pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Back pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of fullness

While men and women may experience many of the same signs, women are more likely to have symptoms unrelated to chest pain. These may include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

If You Believe You’re Having a Heart Attack

  • Call 9-1-1. Tell the operator: "I think I'm having a heart attack."
  • Chew one adult strength aspirin or four baby aspirin. Chewing instead of swallowing will help the medicine work faster. Keep supplies in areas where you spend time, as well as in your pocket or purse.
  • If at home, unlock your front door to enable paramedics to get to you quickly.
  • If possible, have a wallet card ready with your medical history and current medications.

If you think you're having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Learn about heart care at GW Hospital >

Call 9-1-1 — Don't Drive Yourself to a Hospital

Time lost is heart muscle lost. You will delay your treatment if you drive yourself to the hospital. The paramedics can begin treatment as quickly as possible once they reach you. They will also notify the hospital that you are coming.

Emergency Information Packet

If possible, have the following information packet ready for medical emergencies, such as a suspected heart attack:

  • Driver's license photocopy or photo ID
  • Health insurance cards (or photocopies) and an insurance contact phone number
  • Copy of your living will or advance directive
  • List of all medications, vitamins and supplements you are currently taking, including dosages and frequency
  • Short descriptions of all current medical conditions or chronic illnesses
  • A list of allergies and chemical intolerances
  • Phone number of your family doctor, local pharmacy and specialists
  • Phone number of relatives or friends who may be contacted