Orlando, Fla.— Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies — every second counts. If you see or have any of the listed symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number. Not all these signs occur in every heart attack or stroke. Sometimes they go away and return. If some occur, get help fast! Today heart attack and stroke victims can benefit from new medications and treatments unavailable to patients in years past. 

Don’t wait to get help if you experience any of these heart attack warning signs. Although some heart attacks are sudden and intense, most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body — and call 9-1-1 if you feel: 

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. 
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. 
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.




Perhaps you may, or may not be aware of the following unexpected triggers:

Lack of sleep

Sleeping less than 6 hours can raise your risk of a heart attack. Doctor’s aren’t sure why, but they know that losing sleep raises your blood pressure and leads to inflammation. None of those are good for your heart.

Migraine headaches

If you suffer from migraine you must know that you may be at higher risk to suffer a heart attack later in life. The type of migraines that include auras — strange sights, sounds, or feelings that start before the headache hits — seem to have a stronger link to heart problems.

Cold weather

Even though this does not represent a big problem for us in Florida, being outside in the winter months can cause your arteries to narrow, making it harder for blood to reach your heart. In addition, your heart needs to work harder to keep your body warm and there you are, at higher risk again.

Air pollution and car exhaust

Heart attacks are more common when air pollution levels are high. People who breathe dirty air on a regular basis, like when you sit in traffic, are more likely to have clogged arteries and heart disease.

Big heavy meals

Remember that discomfort you feel when you know you’ve just eaten too much? Eating large amounts of food in one sitting leads to higher levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine in your body. That can raise your blood pressure and heart rate, and it may trigger heart attacks in some people. Very fatty meals can also cause a sudden jump in a kind of fat in your blood, and that may temporarily damage some blood vessels as well.

Strong emotions

This one may take you by surprise but either good or bad emotions that are strong enough may sometimes lead to a heart attack. So if you feel vulnerable or at risk, take it easy the next time you celebrate even weddings, birthdays or the birth of a grandchild.

Too much physical effort

As much as 6% of heart attacks are triggered by overdone, intense physical activity.

Fighting the flu

Heart attack rates are also higher during flu outbreaks — another good reason to get your flu shot.


Your chances of having a heart attack go up about 70% if you have this lung disease. Also, because of your asthma, you also may tend to ignore chest tightness, which can be an early sign of a heart attack.

How you get up in the morning matters

Because of your asthma, you also may tend to ignore chest tightness, which can be an early sign of a heart attack.

How you get up in the morning matters

Your brain floods your body with hormones to help you wake up, and that adds extra stress to your heart. Also, you may be dehydrated after a long sleep, which can make your heart suddenly work harder. Try to take your time to relax before you stand up.


Studies have shown that heart attack rates go up after major disasters like earthquakes or terrorist attacks even up to a few years later. 


Drinking alcohol over time, that can raise your blood pressure, increase certain kinds of bad cholesterol, and lead to weight gain — all of which can hurt your heart. According to one study, a night of heavy drinking can also raise your risk over the following week.


Overall, coffee seems to be good for your heart. People who have 3 to 5 cups a day tend to have less plaque in their arteries — and that’s a good thing, but if you don’t drink it regularly it can make your blood pressure go up for a short time and trigger an attack.