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Top 10 Heart Attack Symptoms That Should Have You Calling 911

Chest Pain and/or Pressure
Chest pain may be the stereotypical heart-attack symptom, but it's one to pay attention to.
Chest pain may be the stereotypical heart-attack symptom, but it's one to pay attention to.
George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

If you are doubled over while clutching your chest in agony, you needn't contemplate the chances that the pain indicates a heart attack. Just call 911. Sections of your heart are probably dying, and if you don't get help immediately, you may have permanent heart damage -- if you survive at all. And strange as it may sound, intense, debilitating pain is probably the best symptom you can have if you have to have a heart attack.

The chest pain or pressure associated with a heart attack is called angina, and it's the most common symptom. Unfortunately for long-term survival, angina is usually much milder than people think, and this delays them from seeking attention. People may think it's nothing and just wait for it to pass. The result of this delay may be permanent heart damage that could have been avoided if the person had sought immediate medical attention.

Even if the pain is just mild or moderate, there are certain characteristics that may help you determine whether what you're feeling is a heart attack or just a bit of nervousness because you're starting a new job or going out on a first date. Call 911 immediately if:

  • You experience severe, debilitating chest pain.
  • You feel any level of pain or pressure in the center of your chest for more than a minute or two, and sitting down or resting doesn't make it go away instantly. It may also go away and then come back. This feeling in the chest may also be experienced as tightness, aching, a burning sensation, fullness or squeezing.

Even if sitting down or resting does make the pain or pressure subside, you should still seek medical attention as soon as possible, as this could indicate a pre-heart-attack state of oxygen deprivation or a mild heart attack.

You definitely shouldn't mess around with chest pain -- no matter what. Other symptoms, though, can be more ambiguous. The next symptom on the list might be due to any number of less serious conditions, but it's important to realize that it could be telling you to call 911.