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Wondering when to call your doctor?

Is it mild heart attack symptoms or indigestion? Here are some guidelines to help you determine when to get help.

If you notice any of the symptoms described below, call your doctor or a health information line as soon as possible. If neither of these is available, call the emergency department of your nearest hospital or 9-1-1*.

  • Extreme fatigue or decreased ability to complete daily activities.
  • A respiratory infection or a cough that has become worse instead of better.
  • Fast heart rate (above 100 beats per minute).
  • Higher than usual blood pressure for three separate blood pressure measurements taken at different times.
  • New, irregular heartbeat.
  • Chest pain or discomfort during activity that goes away with rest.
  • Difficulty breathing during regular activities or at rest.
  • Changes in sleep patterns, including difficulty sleeping or feeling the need to sleep a lot more than usual.
  • Weight gain from fluid retention.
  • Constant dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Nausea or poor appetite.

If your chest, arm, throat, neck or jaw hurts, if you have feelings of pressure or tightness in these areas, this may be mild or early heart attack symptoms. Call your doctor and have someone drive you to the hospital or call 9-1-1. Take an aspirin (chew it up) on the way.

Listen to your body and respond to symptoms as early as possible to help prevent any additional permanent damage to your heart.

When to call 9-1-1?

Call 9-1-1 immediately* if you have:

  • New chest pain or discomfort that is severe, unexpected, and accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, or weakness.
  • Chest pain NOT alleviated by nitroglycerin.
  • Rapid heart rate (more than 120-150 beats per minute) - especially if you are short of breath too.
  • Shortness of breath NOT relieved by rest.
  • Sudden weakness or paralysis (inability to move) in the arms or legs.
  • Sudden, severe headache.
  • Fainting spell with loss of consciousness.

After calling 9-1-1, continue to stay on the phone with the emergency operator... he or she will give you (or the person calling for you) further instructions. If you pass out before giving all your information, they will be able to locate you if the line remains open.

If you live in a rural area, advise emergency services in your area of your condition.

If (and only if) an ambulance is not readily available, have someone drive you to emergency.

What if your symptoms are somewhat vague?

It might feel like pressure in your chest, but you think it could be indigestion. Don't take a chance. Call your doctor, pop an aspirin and head for the hospital.

Remember... better safe than sorry. You have heart disease!

The hospital won’t be angry with you if it’s a false alarm. The worst case scenario, if it truly is indigestion, is that you will spend a few hours in emergency and then go home. On the other hand if you don’t go when you need to go, you may be gone!

See more about symptoms of heart problems.

In North America 9-1-1 is the accepted number for contacting emergency fire, ambulance and police services. Some jurisdictions may not yet be using this number.

Also, many countries have different emergency numbers. For example, the number in the United Kingdom is 9-9-9; in Belgium it is 9-0-0; in Australia and Denmark - 0-0-0; Japan - 1-1-9. In many countries there are different numbers for medical, fire and police emergencies.

Know the medical emergency number for your area!

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