Some heart attack signs and symptoms are sudden and intense ... the classic “movie” heart attack signs. No one doubts what’s happening when they see these signs and symptoms. But a heart attack usually starts slowly for both men and women, the only signs and symptoms being mild pain or discomfort. Often men and women having a heart attack aren’t sure what the signs and symptoms mean and wait too long before getting help. Women with signs and symptoms of a heart attack typically wait longer, often to their detriment.
The warning signs and symptoms of a Heart Attack can include:
- Chest discomfort. For both men and women, the classic signs and symptoms of a heart attack usually involve discomfort in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The pain can be stabbing or crushing, or feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or a burning pain. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Heart attack pain can sometimes feel like indigestion or heartburn.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain, discomfort, or numbness in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
- Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, having nausea and vomiting, or feeling light-headed or dizzy.
Signs and symptoms vary from person to person. In fact, if you have a second heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same as for the first heart attack. Some people have no symptoms. This is called a “silent” heart attack.
The symptoms of Angina can be similar to those of a heart attack. If you have angina and notice a change or a worsening of your symptoms, talk with your doctor right away.
Know the warning signs of a heart attack so you can act fast to get treatment. Many heart attack victims wait 2 hours or more after their symptoms begin before they seek medical help. This delay can result in death or lasting heart damage.
If you think you may be having a heart attack, or if your Angina pain does not go away as usual when you take your angina medicine as directed, call 9-1-1 for help. You can begin to receive life-saving treatment in the ambulance on the way to an emergency room.
Heart Attack may cause some or all of these symptoms
- Pain, pressure, fullness, discomfort or squeezing in the center of the chest
- Stabbing chest pain
- Radiating pain to shoulder(s), neck, back, arm(s) or jaw
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Pounding heartbeats (palpitations) or feeling extra heartbeats
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea, vomiting or severe indigestion
- Sweating for no apparent reason
- Dizziness with weakness
- Sudden extreme fatigue
- Panic with feeling of impending doom
Note milder symptoms. About a third of women experience no chest pain at all when having a heart attack. Many report flu-like symptoms.
- Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back
- Pain or discomfort that radiates to other areas of the upper body (e.g., one or both arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw, or abdomen)
- Shortness of breath (may occur prior to chest pain, may accompany it, or may occur without it)
- Lightheadedness or fainting (may occur with or without chest pain)
- Cold sweat or paleness (may occur with or without chest pain)
- Nausea (may occur with or without chest pain)
Additional symptoms include the following:
- Intense sweating
- Unexplained anxiety, weakness, or fatigue
Revision date: July 6, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD