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Medical Emergency: Learn to Spot Stroke, Angina, and Heart Attack Symptoms

Angina Symptoms

Angina occurs with heart disease. It is temporary chest pain or pressure that happens when heart muscle isn't getting enough oxygen, usually because arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart have become narrow or blocked. Strong emotion, physical exertion, hot and cold temperature extremes, or a heavy meal can trigger angina.

Symptoms include:

  • Pressure, pain, squeezing, or a sense of fullness in the center of the chest
  • Pain or discomfort in the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw

If you have stable angina, symptoms usually happen with predictable triggers. Symptoms go away if you rest or take nitroglycerin that your doctor has prescribed.

If you have unstable angina, chest pain comes at unexpected times, even with little physical exertion. Symptoms don't go away with rest or medication. You can't always tell unstable angina from a heart attack. If chest pain worsens, lasts for more than five minutes, or doesn't improve after you've taken nitroglycerin, call 911 for emergency care. When you get to the hospital, doctors will need to rule out heart attack symptoms.

Stroke Symptoms

A stroke is often called a "brain attack." Arteries to the brain become blocked or rupture, causing brain cells to die. Prompt medical treatment may reduce disability, which can include paralysis, trouble with thinking, and problems with speech and emotions.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially if it occurs on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion; trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; double vision
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you or someone near you has these heart attack symptoms, call 911 right away and get to an emergency room. Every minute counts; the longer a stroke continues, the greater the damage. Make sure everyone in your household knows how to recognize stroke symptoms so that they can call 911 if the person with symptoms can't.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Thomas M. Maddox, MD on July 15, 2012

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