Heart Attack and Acute Coronary Syndrome

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Symptoms and signs

Symptoms of the acute coronary syndrome (ACS) may include:

  • A pressing or squeezing pain in the centre of the chest, sometimes spreading to the jaw, arm, back or abdomen
  • shortness of breath, sometimes coughing or wheezing
  • feeling sick and light headed
  • a great feeling of anxiety
  • Signs may include a rapid pulse, low blood pressure, pallor of the skin and sweating.

    In some cases the pain is minor and can be mistaken for indigestion. Symptoms may occur without any chest pain, particularly in older individuals and in those with diabetes. In women symptoms are often less dramatic and more likely to be misinterpreted as due to another cause than in men.

    If you experience these symptoms, dial 999 immediately for an ambulance. Do not worry if you are uncertain whether you are having a heart attack. Between 60% and 80% of patients taken to hospital with chest pain are found not to have had a heart attack. Paramedics would rather be called out to a false alarm than arrive too late to save a life.

    If someone who complains of severe chest pain becomes unconscious and no pulse can be felt, it is likely to be due to a cardiac arrest caused by a heart attack. Their life could be saved if cardiopulmonary resuscitation is commenced and performed until the paramedics arrive. Find out how here.

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