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Coronary Artery Disease - When to Call a Doctor

Do not wait if you think you are having a heart attack. Some people aren't sure whether they're having one, or they don't want to bother others, so they wait. But getting help fast can save your life.

Call911or other emergency services immediately if you have symptoms of a heart attack or are with someone who has symptoms. Symptoms may include:

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Is It a Heart Attack or Angina?

It’s dramatic when someone has a heart attack on television or in the movies. But in real life, symptoms can be more subtle and difficult to identify. And because heart attack and angina symptoms are so similar, it may be hard to tell what's going on. But knowing the differences -- and the reasons behind them -- can result in seeking treatment sooner, and living longer.

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  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself. By taking an ambulance, you may be able to start treatment before you arrive at the hospital.

Nitroglycerin. If you typically use nitroglycerin to relieve angina and if one dose of nitroglycerin has not relieved your symptoms within 5 minutes, call 911. Do not wait to call for help.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your angina symptoms are different, more frequent, or severe.

Who to see

To see if you are at risk for heart disease, have symptoms of heart disease, or need long-term care for existing heart disease, see your family doctor or internist. For diagnosis of coronary artery disease, you may see a cardiologist. For ongoing care of stable angina, you will likely see your family doctor or an internist. For angioplasty or surgery, you will be referred to an interventional cardiologist or cardiovascular surgeon.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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