On a rainy December day, Stu Bernstein dashed several blocks through
downtown San Francisco in a race to catch the last commuter train home. Shortly
after the train left the station, the project manager broke into a cold sweat.
Then he felt shortness of breath and indigestion-like pain. When pain was
radiating down his left arm, Bernstein realized he was experiencing heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the U.S, according to
the CDC. The latest available American Heart Association figures reveal that in
2003, heart disease killed about 427,000 men As Bernstein would learn, getting
help fast can mean the difference between life and death.
Stu Bernstein was familiar with heart attack symptoms, thanks to a job he
had once held selling heart drugs to cardiologists. As he started to call 911
on his cell phone, the conductor noticed his distress.
"I'm having a heart attack," Bernstein told him. The conductor relayed news
of the emergency, the train sped faster, and an ambulance rushed to the next
station only a few minutes away. Paramedics came aboard and transported
Bernstein to a hospital emergency room only a quarter-mile down the road.
Doctors began working on his heart within 10 minutes after symptoms began.
Bernstein was only 51-far younger than 66, the average age for men to have a
first heart attack. He didn't see it coming, he says. "It was a distant
Even though he had a massive heart attack that cost him one-third of his
heart function, "I'm alive," he says.
Recognizing Heart Attack Symptoms in Men
When heart attack symptoms strike, the sooner you can get to an emergency
room, the better your chances of survival. During a heart attack, blood flow to
heart muscle is reduced or cut off, often because a blood clot blocks an
artery. When heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood, it
Ideally, treatments to restore blood flow to heart muscle-for example,
clot-dissolving drugs or angioplasty--should begin within one hour after heart
attack symptoms begin, according to the American Heart Association.
All men should be familiar with these heart attack
Chest pain or discomfort that can feel like uncomfortable pressure,
fullness, squeezing or pain in the chest. It may last for more than a few
minutes, or it can come and go.
Discomfort or pain in other areas, such as one or both arms, the neck, jaw,
back or stomach
Shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea, or sweating
Abdominal discomfort that may feel like indigestion
Chest pain is a classic male heart attack symptom, and men know it well. But
they're often clueless about other symptoms, experts say.
"If you watch television movies, you get the impression that the only
symptom you need to react to is a heavy, crushing elephant on your chest," says
Mohamud Daya, MD, MS, an associate professor of emergency services at Oregon
Health and Science University.