Spotting heart attacks

(NBC News) No one walks around thinking they’ll be one of the 750,000 people who will have a heart attack this year.

If it does occur, would you know it?

The body has several ways it can alert someone he or she is having a heart attack, but a new report from the Centers for Disease Control finds only about 50 percent of Americans know all five of the most common signs.

Those are: Feeling like you can’t catch a breath, pain in your jaw, neck or back, feeling weak or lightheaded, pain in your arm or shoulder and the classic chest pain.

“When we look at all the data, chest pain, chest pressure, an elephant sitting on the chest, is the most common sign,” cardiologist Dr. Jennifer Mieres says.

It’s one thing to know the signs. It’s another to seek help when you have symptoms.

Fear of being a real-life drama queen kept soap opera star Susan Lucci from seeking help when she first started having heart trouble.

When she did see a doctor it was discovered she had major blockage in her heart’s main artery. Her message now?

“To put yourself on your to-do list,” she says. “To not dismiss any symptom that seems irregular for your body.”

The faster you can recognize the signs of a heart attack and call 911, the more likely you are to survive.

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