6 Early Signs of Heart Attack You Must Know

Pain in the Arms

Before we get into heat attack signs, lets first explore what causes a heart attack.  Simply put, heart attacks are caused by a reduction in blood flow to the heart.  Blood contains oxygen which the heart needs in order to function.  This restriction is caused by a build up of plaque, that consists of cholesterol, fat, and other substances.

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A blood clot in the arteries forms when the plaque breaks apart, thus blocking critical blood flow to supply oxygen to this vital organ. Ischemia then occurs which is when damage or death of part of the heart muscle. Someone in the U.S. suffers from a heart attack about every 43 seconds.  Recovery after a heart attack is common, which can take about 8 weeks. The part of the heart that was damaged may form scar tissue, which does not pump blood as effectively as a healthy heart, but this also depends on the degree of damage to the heart.

Other causes of heart attack, although rare, do occur. An artery that supplies blood to the heart can temporarily spasm or contract, thus restricting blood flow to the heart to cause a heart attack.  Not all chest pains are due to a heart attack.  Something called angina can cause chest pain from a restriction in blood flow, but unlike hear attacks angina does not damage the heart tissue.  This is triggered during periods of high blood pressure and heart rate increase from stress, which only lasts for a few minutes.

If the heart is not producing enough oxygen, the initial effects will be felt either in the chest area; or more commonly, the left arm. The pain in the arm is actually referred pain, as in the pain does not actually exist where it is felt, rather as the pain travels up the spine, where there are neuronal connections to the intercostobrachial nerves giving the sensation of pain in one’s arm. (for men it’s usually the left arm, for women it could be either).

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A study finds that heart attack victims experiencing sweating will be the most likely to visit the hospital. Since the arteries are going to be clogged, the heart has to exert more energy to pump it through and individuals experiencing this will then sweat as the body attempts to maintain homeostasis.


If not induced by physical trauma, a very severe and sudden headache could be a sign of a heart attack. Commonly, this is paired along with feelings of fatigue and dizziness. When there is no pain in the chest or arms, and no other signs of heart attacks persist; this is the brain’s way of letting you know that something is wrong. If someone experiences a sudden headache, they should never rule out a heart attack.

Shortness of Breath

When the heart weakens, it loses its ability to pump blood as efficiently, and therefore slows the spread of oxygen throughout the body. This is one of the most prominent signs of heart attacks, and should never be ignored. If one ever experiences shortness of breath while resting, they should without a doubt go see a doctor.


This is most common when the heart attack affects the lower and weaker portion of the heart rather than the coronary artery. It is most common when angina is occurring. Angina is the phenomenon that occurs when the heart is unable to pump oxygen quick enough to meet the needs of the body.

Stomach Pain

Stomach pain as a sign of heart attack is far more common in women than in men. Often the pain in the stomach will have spread from the chest area. At other times however, this may be the only symptom a woman is experiencing. With physical activity, pain may intensify or spread to the arms and shoulders.