Heart attacks are sudden and, in most cases, powerful. One must not wait to get help when a heart attack occurs, as it can lead to death. Furthermore, there are some early warning signs of cardiac arrest that sadly most people are unaware of.

Below are the four key signs of an imminent cardiac arrest that a person should never ignore.

1. Chest pain

Feeling a strange discomfort in the chest is the most common indicator of a heart attack at any point in the following days. The pain stems from the buildup of plaque inside the arteries, Dr. Roger Blumenthal, the director of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told The Guardian. The typical chest pain is known as angina, which can also occur due to a constriction or spasm of the arteries on the outside of the heart.

Blumenthal, therefore, said it’s important to reach out for medical help at the earliest in case one experiences the said discomfort.

2. Searing pain in the neck, shoulder, or jaw

A neck pain, which sometimes one might mistake for a muscle strain, can have far more dangerous implications. Blumenthal said a pain that zaps through the neck or shoulder or arm, could mean a heart attack is likely.

“Sometimes angina is synonymous with chest pain or chest pressure but sometimes, especially with older individuals, there may be other associated symptoms like ... pain that radiates through the neck or shoulder or arm,” Blumenthal said.

Those who experience jaw pain on one side in conjunction with neck pain or chest discomfort are also at immediate risk of a heart attack. Jayne Morgan, MD, cardiologist and the clinical director of the COVID task force at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, GA, said jaw pain before heart attack is more common in women than in men.

“Women's symptoms can be less dramatic than the crushing chest pain and tightness, and shortness of breath that drives most men to the hospital,” Dr. Morgan told The Healthy. “Instead they may manifest in nonspecific ways such as fatigue, jaw pain, back pain, or a common complaint of 'feeling rundown.'"

3. Panting exasperatingly after carrying out a task

Dr. Abha Khandelwal, a clinical associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford Health Care told The Guardian that desperate gasping for air after performing any physical task can also point to a heart attack. She said some people may also feel numbness in the arm or chest discomfort after exertion.

A study published in the Sarver Heart Center said more than half the patients experiencing cardiac arrest gasp in varying forms such as snoring, gurgling, and moaning. Researchers said gasping is a survival reflex triggered by the brain at the onset of a cardiac event.

4. Feeling nauseous

Certain symptoms like nausea, abdominal pain, and overall fatigue may also be the red flags to watch out for, Dr. Nikhil Sikand, a Yale Medicine cardiologist and assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, told The Guardian. However, he said the symptoms may not be common for everyone.

"Some patients may have mild or no symptoms at all," he noted.

The time range between symptoms and cardiac arrests can vary from person to person, Khandelwal said, adding people can start having the symptoms at least a month before the heart attack, with the problems intensifying in the few days leading up to the actual event.

“Oftentimes, that day of, [or] the week of, leading up to [a heart attack] can be filled with more symptoms,” she said.

Whatever the time gap, Khandelwal implored people to call for medical help, especially if the symptoms surface quickly and severely.