What is a Heart Attack?

5.6% of Massachusetts adults 35+ report having had a heart attack. 

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is also known as a myocardial infarction. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to your heart is greatly reduced or cut off completely. This can happen if the arteries that bring your blood to your heart become narrowed from buildup of fat, cholesterol, or plaque.

Signs and symptoms of a heart attack

The 5 common symptoms of a heart attack are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
  • Shortness of breath — with or without chest pain

Some people may experience different symptoms. According to the American Heart Association, women can experience different and sometimes less dramatic symptoms.

Heart attack symptoms in women

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Call 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY if you or someone is experiencing any of these symptoms!

Learn more about heart attacks from the American Heart Association.