When to Go: Signs and Warnings of a Heart Attack

You should be aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Very rarely does a heart attack begin with dramatic symptoms. For example, you might be surprised to learn that most men and women having a heart attack don't even realize it. That's because the vast majority of heart attacks happen slowly with just discomfort or mild pain. Relatively few heart attacks strike with a sudden, intense pain that makes someone clutch his chest. More often, patients aren't sure what's wrong and don't get help soon enough.

If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.

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Heart Attack Warning Signs

Chest discomfort: Discomfort in the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes that comes and goes. Chest discomfort is also described as uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort radiating to one or both arms, the back, neck, or jaw.

Shortness of breath: This may occur with or without chest discomfort.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

The warning signs for men and women can be different. Women are more likely than men to experience some of the other uncommon symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

A third of women experience no chest pain at all when having a heart attack and 71 percent of women report flu-like symptoms for two weeks to a month prior to having a cardiac event.

Take the Free Heart Risk Assessment

Visit the American Heart Association for more information on the warning signs of a heart attack.

Learn more about heart attack and heart health:

How to Prevent Your Own Heart Attack

Flu and Your Heart. Can Flu Make Your Heart Sick?

Panic or Heart Attack? How to Know the Difference.

Heartburn or Heart Attack? How to Save Your Own Life.

Beware of Binging and Other Tips to Prevent Holiday Heart Attacks

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How to Keep Holiday Stress from Harming Your Heart

Learn Hands-Free CPR

3 Weird, Wonderful Ways to Love Your Heart

Love Chocolate? It Loves You and Your Heart Back!