Early symptoms of acute coronary syndrome

The early symptoms of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) are the same as those of a heart attack. Therefore, it goes without saying that experiencing these symptoms warrants urgent medical care. But learning what these symptoms are in the first place is equally imperative.

Acute coronary syndrome symptoms include:

·         Pain, burning, pressure, or tightness in the chest.

·         Pain in areas other than the chest such as the left upper arm or jaw.

·         Nausea.

·         Vomiting

·         Shortness of breath.

·         Sudden, profuse sweating.

Additionally, symptoms of heart attack include:

·         Abdominal pain.

·         Heartburn-like pain.

·         Clammy skin.

·         Feeling lightheaded or dizzy.

·         Fainting.

·         Restlessness.

·         Apprehension.

Acute coronary syndrome is a form of coronary heart disease that refers to a group of conditions in which the heart is suddenly cut off from its normal supply of oxygen-rich blood. Myocardial infarction – better known as heart attack – is included in that group, thus accounting for the similarity in symptoms. ACS is usually caused by an accumulation of fatty deposits called plaque which narrow the arteries in the heart and block the flow of blood. Smoking tobacco and leading a sedentary lifestyle contribute to the build-up of plaque. Other risk factors are:

·         High blood pressure.

·         High cholesterol.

·         Age (older than 45 and older than 55 for men and women, respectively).

·         Type 2 diabetes.

·         Obesity.

·         Family history of chest pain, heart disease, or stroke.

·         For women, a history of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes.

 Experiencing the early symptoms of acute coronary syndrome “is an absolute medical emergency. Something dramatic, right this minute is going on in the arteries that is hurting the blood flow to the heart,” cardiologist at San Francisco General Hospital and a member of the American Heart Association’s Council on Clinical Cardiology Dr. Ann Bolger says. “People are in denial and they’re sitting there thinking, ‘This can’t really be happening to me.’” We want them to feel entitled to call 9-1-1. They’re not being alarmist.” The first two tests a doctor will perform to determine whether a person is having a heart attack are en electrocardiogram and blood tests. Other tests may include:

·         Echocardiogram.

·         Chest x-ray.

·         Nuclear scan.

·         Computerized tomography angiogram.

·         Coronary angiogram.

·         Exercise stress test.

Treatment for ACS may include drugs and/surgical procedure depending on the type and severity of symptoms and how obstructed the arteries are.

Acute coronary syndrome


·         Aspirin.

·         Thrombolytics.

·         Nitroglycerin.

·         Beta blockers.

·         Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers.

·         Calcium channel blockers.

·         Drugs that lower cholesterol.

·         Drugs that prevent clots.


·         Angioplasty and stenting.

·         Coronary bypass surgery.


Fortunately, lifestyle changes can help prevent ACS, for instance:

·         Not smoking.

·         Drinking alcohol moderately.

·         Managing stress.

·         Eating whole grains, lean meat, low-fat dairy, and fruits and vegetables.

·         Avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol.

·         Physical activity.

·         Keeping a healthy weight.

·         Checking cholesterol.

·         Monitoring blood pressure.

Ask your doctor about the best way to reduce your risk of developing acute coronary syndrome.

Related: Early symptoms of heart failure