Recognize heart attack signs

 UPDATED 5:16 AM HST Feb 04, 2014
Heart with ribbon

When someone has a heart attack, the most important thing they can do to increase their chances of surviving and minimize damage to their heart is to get help as soon as possible.

That might seem obvious, but according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, many people take a "wait and see" attitude when they experience heart attack symptoms because they don't recognize the signs of a heart attack or they attribute the symptoms to another problem. In fact, the NHLBI says that most heart attack victims wait two hours or more after symptoms begin before seeking treatment, and this delay can result in death or permanent damage to the heart.

The NHLBI says that despite the popular image of a heart attack -- someone suddenly clutching his or her chest and falling over -- most heart attacks begin slowly, as mild pain or discomfort in the chest.

According to the American Heart Association, some of the most common warning signs of a heart attack include:

The AHA urges anyone experiencing these symptoms to seek medical attention as soon as possible. In fact, the AHA and NHLBI joined forces last year to publicize the importance of not only recognizing heart attack warning signs, but also seeking medical aid as soon as possible.

The Act in Time program aims to increase people's awareness of heart attacks and the importance of calling 911 immediately at the onset of heart attack symptoms.

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