Am I having a heart attack?

28 June 2017

Article provided by St John of God Murdoch Hospital

9,300 Australians die of a heart attack each year and many of these people die because they don’t know the signs or wait too long to seek help.

Director Emergency Medicine Paul Bailey says every minute counts when a person is having a heart attack.

“When people arrive at our Emergency Department with chest pain, our first concern is to rule out a heart-related condition,” says Dr Bailey.

“The earlier we are able to open up the blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart, the better your chances of survival.”

Warning signs include:
• Discomfort or pain in the centre of your chest
• Discomfort in your arms, shoulders, neck or jaw
• Shortness of breath
• Nausea
• A cold sweat
• Feeling dizzy or light-headed

If you have chest pain or other warning signs of a heart attack that are severe, get worse quickly or last more than 10 minutes, call 000 immediately.

Other common causes of chest pain are indigestion or reflux, muscle strains and inflammation, shingles and chest infections.

Chest pain can also be coming from the heart but be less severe than a heart attack – this is called angina. It is caused by poor blood flow to the heart, often when the heart has to work harder than usual.

“People with coronary artery disease can experience angina, often with exercise, high emotion or distress, cold weather or after eating a large meal,” says Dr Bailey.

“The pain doesn’t last long and is relieved with rest. If the pain persists, this may indicate a heart attack.”

For more information on warning signs and treatments for heart attacks, visit The Heart Foundation’s website

St John of God Murdoch Hospital is a division of St John of God Health Care.

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