The number of patients with heart attack symptoms seeking care at hospitals has dropped significantly during the COVID pandemic. The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions reported that patients presenting with cardiac symptoms declined 70 percent.

Heart attack is the number one killer in America. It causes more than one million deaths per year. Care within the first 90 minutes of heart attack symptoms is critical. Delays in treatment is correlated with patients having more severe symptoms.

The major symptoms of a heart attack are:

Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.

Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.

Cold sweat.

Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.

Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders.

Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort.

Unusual tiredness, nausea or vomiting.

Although some women have any of the above symptoms, the CDC notes these symptoms specific to women:

Angina (dull and heavy or sharp chest pain or discomfort)

Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat.

Pain in the upper abdomen or back.

Nausea.

Vomiting.

Fatigue.

A person may not know they have heart disease. Heart disease can silently stalk you and may not be diagnosed until there are other symptoms displayed such as:

Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations)

Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins

Susan L. Schoenbeck, MSN, RN is a nurse educator who teaches online for Walla Walla University School of Nursing, Portland, Oregon. Her background includes cardiovascular intensive care and care of families who experience loss.

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