Diabetes and Heart Attacks, Cardiac Arrest and Strokes

Warning Signs of Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest and Stroke

A man experiencing chest pain.
A man experiencing chest pain. digitalskillet/Getty Images

Diabetes puts you at risk for many complications. There are those that progress slowly and those that can strike without warning. Cardiovascular complications can put you at risk for heart attacks, cardiac arrest and strokes. These are serious complications that require immediate emergency medical treatment.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

The American Heart Association (AHA) lists these signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

  • Chest discomfort: Usually felt in the center of the chest, lasting more than a few minutes, or coming and going that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. Feels like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, which may or may not be accompanied by chest discomfort.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness may also occur.

More information:

Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs

How is a cardiac arrest different than a heart attack? If you suffer a cardiac arrest, it means that your heart has suddenly stopped beating. A cardiac arrest can happen with no warning. If someone has a cardiac arrest, it is crucial to begin CPR immediately and call 911.

If there is an automated external defibrillator (AED) unit available, there are directions on how to operate it printed on the unit. An AED can often deliver enough of an electrical jolt that a stopped heart will begin beating again. This can buy time until the rescue team gets there.

Symptoms of a cardiac arrest include:

  • Sudden loss of consciousness
  • Victim is not breathing or having small, shallow, irregular breaths with long periods of time in between.

More on cardiac arrest from your About.com Guides to First Aid, Diabetes and Heart Disease

Stroke Warning Signs

The American Stroke Association lists these symptoms of stroke. A key factor is that they all happen suddenly, striking all at once rather than gradually:

  • Numbness or weakness of you face, leg or arm, especially if it affects only one side of your body.
  • Sudden mental confusion, can't understand what is happening around you, you have difficulty speaking.
  • Vision problems that develop suddenly in one eye or in both eyes at the same time.
  • Difficulty with walking and coordination. You may feel suddenly dizzy and have balance problems.
  • You develop a severe headache very quickly.

If you, or someone you know, are having one or more of these symptoms, don't wait. It's essential to go to an emergency room immediately. Every second counts when experiencing a stroke. There is a limited time frame of three hours from the start of the most common kind of stroke, when medical intervention can help prevent damage.

More on strokes from your About.com Guides to First Aid, Stroke and Diabetes

If you have diabetes, be aware of the risks of these complications. Know the signs and symptoms. Know what to do. Taking quick action can save your life.


(2008). Heart Attack, Stroke and Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs. Retrieved November 27, 2008, from American Heart Association Web site.

(2008, Sept. 26). Learn To Recognize A Stroke. Retrieved November 27, 2008, from American Stroke Association Web site.

Continue Reading