Know the Signs

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), men and women often experience different heart attack symptoms. Men and women also may have different heart attack triggers. Most often, men experience physical exhaustion before a heart attack. Meanwhile, women most often report having emotional stress prior to a heart attack.

Heart Attack Symptoms for Men

Men often (but not always) experience what are known as "classic" signs of a heart attack:

  • Discomfort in the center of the chest that may feel like pressure, squeezing or fullness that goes away and comes back
  • Chest discomfort accompanied by fainting, lightheadedness, shortness of breath or nausea
  • Pain that spreads to the neck, shoulders or arms

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

In addition to a milder form of the "classic" symptoms, women may also experience:

  • Shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
  • Back or jaw pain
  • Nausea, vomiting or dizziness
  • Palpitations, paleness or cold sweats
  • Mild, flu-like symptoms
  • Unexplained anxiety, fatigue or weakness

Not a Minute Too Soon

When you are experiencing a heart attack, every second counts. As more time passes, the more your heart muscle dies.

If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately or get to an emergency room.

The Cardiovascular Institute of Carolina at Aiken Regional Medical Centers is always at the ready to treat heart attack patients 24/7.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Getting answers to these questions will give you vital information about your heart health and what you can do to improve it. You may want to bring this list to your doctor's office.

  1. What is my risk for heart disease?
  2. What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me, and what do I need to do about it?
  3. What are my cholesterol numbers? (These include total cholesterol, LDL or "bad" cholesterol, HDL or "good" cholesterol, and triglycerides.) What do they mean for me, and what do I need to do about them?
  4. What are my body mass index and waist measurement? Do they indicate that I need to lose weight for my health?
  5. What is my blood sugar level, and does it mean I'm at risk for diabetes?
  6. What other screening tests for heart disease do I need? How often should I return for checkups for my heart health?
  7. What can you do to help me quit smoking?
  8. How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?
  9. What is a heart-healthy eating plan for me? Should I see a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist to learn more about healthy eating?
  10. How can I tell if I'm having a heart attack?

What's Your Risk?

  • Here is a quick quiz to find out your risk of a heart attack. If you don't know some of the answers, check with your health care provider.
  • Do you smoke?
  • Is your blood pressure 140/90 mmHg or higher, OR have you been told by your doctor that your blood pressure is too high?
  • Has your doctor told you that your total cholesterol level is 200 mg/dL or higher, OR your HDL (good cholesterol) is less than 40 mg/dL?
  • Has your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55, OR has your mother or sister had one before age 65?
  • Do you have diabetes OR a fasting blood sugar of 126 mg/dL or higher, OR do you need medicine to control your blood sugar?
  • Are you over 55 years old?
  • Do you have a body mass index (BMI) score of 25 or more?
  • Do you get less than a total of 30 minutes of physical activity on most days?
  • Has a doctor told you that you have angina (chest pains), OR have you had a heart attack?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you're at an increased risk of having a heart attack.

Source: The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2007).

Take Charge of Your Heart Health. Know Your Numbers.

The American Heart Association and the Cardiovascular Institute of Carolina at Aiken Regional believe that it is crucial to get regular preventive screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and BMI. Keeping these numbers in check can help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Blood Pressure

  • Normal: Less than 120/80
  • Prehypertension: 120/80 to 139/89
  • Hypertension: 140/90 or higher

Total Cholesterol

  • Desirable: Less than 200 mg/dL
  • Borderline: 200-239 mg/dL
  • High: 240 mg/dL and above

Blood Glucose (Fasting)

  • Normal: Under 99 mg/dL and below
  • Prediabetes: 100-125 mg/dL
  • Diabetes: 126 mg/dL and above

HDL Cholesterol

Less than 40 mg/dL is a major risk factor for heart disease

LDL Cholesterol

  • Optimal: Less than 100 mg/dL
  • Near Optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
  • Borderline: 130-159 mg/dL High: 160-189 mg/dL
  • Very High: 190 mg/dL and above

Find a Doctor for Cardiovascular Care

For more information about the Cardiovascular Institute of Carolina, call 803-641-5551. To make an appointment with a cardiologist, please contact our Direct Doctors Plus® physician referral line at 800-322-8322.