Warning Signs of Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest can occur without easily recognizable symptoms and a person may appear to just “drop.” If the arrest is a result of a heart attack, the victim may have experienced severe, “crushing” chest pain beforehand, or may have only experienced vague symptoms, such as a discomfort in the chest area, shortness of breath, sweating and nausea, or lightheadedness. 

It may not be clear to the person having the heart attack, or to those nearby what has caused the symptoms to occur. It is common -- and often fatal -- to wait too long before getting help. The quicker the response to a heart attack, the better the outcome is likely to be. And whether the person is you, or a family member, or a stranger on the street, it’s important to be prepared to take action. For this reason, there has been a decades-long campaign by public health agencies and organizations, such as the American Heart Association, to inform the public of the possible symptoms of a heart attack and of ways we can help when faced with a cardiac emergency. 

Symptoms of heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, a squeezing sensation or fullness, or pain.

  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

  • Shortness of breath: This sensation may occur alone or simultaneously with chest discomfort.

  • Other symptoms: A person may “break out” in a cold sweat, complain of nausea or lightheadedness, or simply state that he or she doesn’t feel well. Unfortunately, these individuals often leave work or other public places and go home to rest, thinking the symptoms are from the flu.

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