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Heart Attack and Acute Coronary Syndrome

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Signs and Symptoms

With both a heart attack and other forms of acute coronary syndrome (ACS), a person typically experiences a sudden onset of chest pain, often radiating into the jaw, arm or shoulder, that typically is not relieved by rest. In a person who has episodes of chest pain due simply to an inadequate blood supply through narrowed arteries (unstable angina), these symptoms may be more severe or longer-lasting than the person has previously experienced when they developed chest pain on exertion (stable angina), or may represent the first time the person has had chest pain. People with a heart attack or ACS may have symptoms that include:

  • Chest pain
  • Rapid pulse 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Sweating 
  • Sudden onset of shortness of breath 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Change in blood pressure

In some cases, these symptoms may occur without chest pain (particularly in older individuals and in those with diabetes). In women, symptoms are often less dramatic and more likely to be misinterpreted as due to another cause than in men.

For more information on warning signs and the difference between those that occur in men and women, visit the links listed under Related Pages, Elsewhere on the Web. If someone has one or more of these symptoms, they should not ignore them. They should call 911 or their local emergency number. If medical help is not received promptly, irreversible damage to the heart muscle may occur.

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