Heart attack symptoms vary from one person to another. The most common signs of a heart attack are:
The first thing to do if you think you’re having a heart attack is to phone 999 immediately for an ambulance.
You should then sit and rest while you wait for the ambulance to arrive. Do not get up and look around for an aspirin. This may put unnecessary strain on your heart.
Chew an adult aspirin tablet (300mg) if one is easily available, unless you’re allergic to aspirin or you’ve been told not to take it.
If you don’t have an aspirin next to you, or if you don’t know if you’re allergic to aspirin, just stay resting until the ambulance arrives.
A heart attack happens when there is a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of your heart muscle. Most heart attacks are caused by coronary heart disease.
A cardiac arrest happens when your heart stops pumping blood around your body. Although a heart attack can result in a cardiac arrest, they are two different things.
Someone who has had a cardiac arrest will be unconscious and won’t be breathing normally. If you see someone having a cardiac arrest, you can increase the person’s chances of survival by phoning 999 and giving them immediate CPR.
Most heart attacks are caused by coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is when your coronary arteries (the arteries that supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood) become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls.
If a piece of this fatty material (atheroma) breaks off it may cause a blood clot (blockage) to form. If it blocks your coronary artery and cuts off the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle, this is a heart attack.
You might also hear a heart attack called acute coronary syndrome, myocardial infarction (MI) or coronary thrombosis.
Other rarer causes of a heart attack include spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) where one or more of the coronary arteries tear.