Early heart attack symptoms: signs to look out for according to new NHS campaign - from sweating to anxiety

Only 41% of people polled by the NHS knew that sweating was an early symptom of a heart attack
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The NHS has launched a new campaign encouraging people to dial 999 if they are experiencing early symptoms of a heart attack.

A poll conducted for the campaign found that fewer than half of respondents knew to call an ambulance if a loved one was experiencing early signs, such as sweating and a feeling of uneasiness.

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So what are the early symptoms of a heart attack - and what should you do if you suspect yourself or a loved one is showing signs?

Sweating is an early sign of a heart attack. (Picture: Adobe)Sweating is an early sign of a heart attack. (Picture: Adobe)
Sweating is an early sign of a heart attack. (Picture: Adobe)

Why has the NHS launched the campaign?

The NHS has launched a campaign to raise awareness around the early symptoms of a heart attack in order to save more lives with early hospital treatment.

More than 80,000 hospital admissions each year in England are for heart attacks, and the survival rate is currently just seven out of 10.

However, this figure rises to nine out of 10 for people who receive early hospital treatment.

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The campaign aims to raise awareness of early warning signs, such as sweating, lightheadedness and a feeling of uneasiness.

Only 41% of people polled for the campaign knew that sweating was a sign of a heart attack, while just 27% were aware that feeling weak, uneasy or lightheaded were also symptoms.

The campaign also aims to teach people the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

A cardiac arrest often takes place without warning, causing the person to lose consciousness quickly. Without treatment, a person experiencing cardiac arrest will usually die within minutes.

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A heart attack can also lead to a cardiac arrest, without treatment.

NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “It can be easy to dismiss early symptoms as they don’t always feel severe, but it is never too early to dial 999 in this circumstance – and the faster you act, the better the chance of a full recovery.”

Professor Nick Linker, consultant cardiologist and NHS national clinical director for heart disease, said: “Often people don’t realise they’re having a heart attack, either because they don’t recognise the early signs, or because they don’t consider them severe enough to trouble the NHS.

“But make no mistake, a heart attack is a medical emergency, and it’s never too early to call 999 and describe your symptoms.”

What are the early symptoms of a heart attack?

Early signs of a heart attack include:

  • Sweating
  • Feeling weak
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • A general sense of uneasiness
  • Chest tightness - a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across your chest
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Other signs of heart attack listed on the NHS website, include:

  • pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting) 
  • Coughing or wheezing

The NHS warns that while chest pain is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain which feels like indigestion.

While symptoms for women and men are broadly the same, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, feeling or being sick and back or jaw pain.

What should I do if someone is showing signs of a heart attack?

If you or someone you know is having early signs of a heart attack, such as sweating, uneasiness or chest tightness, call 999 right away.

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A poll for the launch found that fewer than half of people knew to dial 999 if they or a loved one experienced the more vague signs of a heart attack.

Dale, who experienced a heart attack aged 36, said: “I had no idea that I was experiencing symptoms of a heart attack at the time.

“On the morning of the attack, I went home after playing football thinking I had indigestion – I just didn’t feel quite right and both of my arms started to feel numb.

“I managed to text my mum who called an ambulance and only when the paramedics arrived did I realise this was a heart attack.

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“People need to be aware of the symptoms – it’s not a case of clutching your chest and falling to the ground. Early signs aren’t always severe but if you experience any symptoms, call 999. Acting quickly saved my life.”

Wilson said: “I’ve battled with my heart health for a while, and since experiencing a heart attack I’ve really opened my eyes to the impact it’s had on my life.

“I got more tired, I’m able to walk around less and my memory has suffered as well. The scariest part is that at the time I did not know enough about heart attacks or heart health.

“I’d advise everyone, especially those aged 50 and over, to look up the symptoms of a heart attack and if you suspect you have any of these to call 999 immediately.”

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