True or false: If someone is having a heart attack they will clutch their chest and fall to the floor? If you said true, you may be watching too many movies. The classic movie heart attack is rarely what real heart attacks are like.

Each year, almost 935,000 people suffer a heart attack (myocardial infarction). Of those, more than 141,000 will die from it. Why? Because they don't recognize the symptoms. Because they think they are too young. Because they think it's heartburn. Because they don't want to be embarrassed if it's not. The reasons are endless, but there's no reason to ignore a heart attack.

Warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Sudden chest pain or pressure that worsens. This may be felt as discomfort, heaviness or pain. May also be felt in the back, jaw, throat, arm or below the breastbone.
  • Feeling as if a belt is being tightened around your chest
  • Pain that spreads from the center of the chest to your arms, shoulders, neck or jaw
  • Sweating, shortness of breath, or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A fullness, indigestion or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Extreme weakness or anxiety

If you or someone you love have any of these symptoms, don't wait — call 911 immediately. Emergency technicians can get you to the hospital faster than friends or family and can provide lifesaving treatment on the way. Permanent heart damage begins shortly after a heart attack. Treatment should be administered within an hour of the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, only one in five people make it to the emergency room in that time.

What can you do?

Learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack. There are many treatments available today, but they only work when administered in time. If you don't know your risk of heart attack, ask a doctor what you can do to avoid it. Because it's better to know the symptoms than to ever experience them.

To find a doctor or speak to a nurse, call Riverside Community Hospital at (951) 788-3463.

Source: American Heart Association