SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Would you know what the symptoms are if you witnessed someone having a heart attack or what you should do in that situation?

According to the CDC, in the United States someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds on average and while it’s very scary, understanding the symptoms and what to do can be life saving.

22News spoke to Baystate Medical Center Cardiologist Dr. Adam Stern about what symptoms to first look out for, “Someone having chest pains, which I often describe to my patients as a muscle cramp basically. I mean, the heart muscle is unhappy cause it’s not getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function and so it starts hurting.”

Other signs include:

  • Feeling weak or light-headed
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders
  • Shortness of breath

The typical heart attack risk factors to look out for include age, obesity, stress, and a family history of heart attacks… all of which work towards reducing or completely blocking the flow of blood to the heart.

If you are experiencing heart attack warning signs, you or someone near you should call 911. It is almost always the fastest way to get life saving treatment.

“I always recommend people go to the hospital as soon as they can. If the artery is totally closed off we call that an “ST elevation MI” and we really want to get that artery open within 90 minutes to 120 minutes in the cath lab, where we balloon it open,” said Dr. Stern.

Dr. Stern says It’s never too late to take steps to prevent a heart attack, even if you’ve already had one. Always try to maintain a healthy weight with a heart healthy diet, get regular exercise, manage stress, and don’t smoke.