Heart Attack


Symptoms Can Vary

Not all heart attacks begin with the sudden, crushing chest pain that often is shown on TV or in the movies. The warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack aren't the same for everyone. Many heart attacks start slowly as mild pain or discomfort. Some people don't have symptoms at all. Heart attacks that occur without any symptoms or very mild symptoms are called silent heart attacks.

However, some people may have a pattern of symptoms that recur. The more signs and symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you're having a heart attack

If you have a second heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same as the first heart attack.

(Watch the video to learn more about the warning signs of a heart attack. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner of the video screen. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

Here are common signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

Chest Pain or Discomfort

The most common symptom of heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. Chest pain or discomfort that doesn't go away or changes from its usual pattern (for example, occurs more often or while you're resting) can be a sign of a heart attack.

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that usually lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. It can be mild or severe. Heart attack pain can sometimes feel like indigestion or heartburn. All chest pain should be checked by a doctor.

Other Upper Body Discomfort

Discomfort can also occur in other areas of the upper body, including pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or upper part of the stomach.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath often happens along with, or before chest discomfort. It can occur when you are resting or doing a little bit of physical activity.

Other Symptoms

Other symptoms may include

  • breaking out in a cold sweat
  • having nausea and vomiting
  • feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • feeling unusually tired for no reason
  • any sudden, new symptom or a change in the pattern of symptoms you already have
  • fainting
  • sleep problems
  • fatigue
  • lack of energy.

See an infographic of what a heart attack feels like. It could save your life.

Angina or a Heart Attack?

Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs if an area of your heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina occurs in people who have coronary heart disease, usually when they're active. Angina symptoms can be very similar to heart attack symptoms. Angina pain usually lasts for only a few minutes and goes away with rest. 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 medication as directed, call 9-1-1 for help. You can begin to receive life-saving treatment in the ambulance on the way to the emergency room.