Could you have a heart attack? How do you know what to do? (2023)

The symptoms of anagudaheart attack, also calledheart attack(MI), can range from telltale chest pain to less obvious indications such as sweating, nausea, fatigue, and/or a sense of impending doom. Heart attacks can also occur without causing any symptoms, and are only diagnosed afterwards - which is often referred to as a heart attack.silent heart attack.

In addition, women experience heart attacks differently than men. Because symptoms can vary dramatically from person to person, it's important to listen to your body and not ignore any symptoms that are unusual or frightening for you. This is especially important for anyone who has or is at riskcoronary heart disease(CAFAJESTE).

Could you have a heart attack? How do you know what to do? (1)

Classic symptoms

There is no typical heart attack, but there are some symptoms most people experience.

  • Chest pain (angina pectoris):Most men and women describe chest pain during a heart attack,although the terminology they use varies and may contain a sense ofabundance,open,or burn.Others compare the pain to the feeling of a lump or heaviness in the breast. It is often concentrated in the center or left side of the chest. Men are more likely than women to describe pain in their chest and left arm during a heart attack.Whatever the nature or location of the heart attack pain, it can start gradually and come and go, come on suddenly, or just feel like a dull, lingering ache. It is important to pay attention to any changes in the pain pattern, especially when less and less activity is needed to trigger it.
  • shortness of breath:During a heart attack, a feeling of pressure in the chest can make breathing difficult.
  • Pain, stiffness or numbness in the upper body:This may be centered on one or both arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper abdomen.
  • A cold sweat:Excessive sweating is a common stress response and a facet of the fight-or-flight response that tells the brain that the body is under threat in some way.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting (syncope):As a heart attack progresses and part of the heart becomes damaged, blood pressure drops. This can slow blood flow to the brain, which in turn can result in dizziness or loss of consciousness.

other symptoms

In addition to the classics, there are other symptoms associated with MI that are less common or seem unrelated to a heart problem:

  • Fatigue:A decrease in blood flow to the heart can deplete the body's energy and cause extreme fatigue, which can occur days or weeks before a heart attack occurs, and is an important warning sign.
  • Changes in heart rate:It could be a pounding heart or an irregular or fast heartbeat.
  • Stomach complaints:Some people report experiencing heartburn or indigestion.
  • A blue tint on the lips, hands, or feet:This is an indication that the blood is not reaching these areas.

Differences in women

Women tend to experience and respond to heart attacks differently than men. They're more likely to ignore or downplay their feelings (and therefore delay seeking medical treatment), because their symptoms are often different or more subtle than the classic ones, the study found.Cleveland clinic. Women are more likely to blame their symptoms on stress or anxiety. However, one study found that more women than men sought medical attention for their symptoms before hospitalization (29.5%) compared to men (22.1%). However, 53% of women said their health care provider did not think their symptoms were related to a heart problem, compared to only 37% of men who said their health care provider seemed to rule out a heart problem.

In one study, women initially reported believing their heart attack symptoms were due to sleep problems, arthritis,complaint, osteoporosis and dental infections, among other unrelated diseases.

Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and pain in the jaw, neck, arms, or between the shoulder blades during a heart attack.Among the heart attack symptoms reported by women are:

  • "Non-Classical" Chest Discomfort:While some women experience severe chest pain during a heart attack, many have other or less severe chest symptoms, such as a feeling of pressure or tightness. According toMayo clinicThis may be because women often have blockages in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart, as well as in the large arteries – known as small vessel heart disease or coronary microvascular disease.
  • Pain in both arms:Men usually only feel pain in their left arm.
  • Sound issues:Women are more likely to experience heart attack symptoms while resting or sleeping, including chest pain severe enough to cause them to wake up at night.
  • Excessive fatigue caused by seemingly everyday activities:Just walking from room to room can be tiring.
  • Fear or a sense of impending doom

In addition, women tend to have worse heart attack outcomes than men, according to a 2016 statement from theAmerican Heart Association. For example, those who survive a heart attack and end up in the hospital are more likely to experience shock, bleeding, or heart failure, likely due to delays in seeking treatment.

Women and heart disease


The short- and long-term consequences of a heart attack are determined by the amount of damage to the heart muscle. For this reason, once an artery supplying blood to the heart is blocked, it is critical to unblock it as soon as possible to restore blood flow. A matter of minutes can make the difference between full recovery, permanent disability or death.

  • Increased risk of another heart attack:Once destroyed, the damaged part of the heart will form scar tissue. This tissue cannot contract the way healthy tissue can, which can prevent the heart from pumping normally and increase the chance of another heart attack.
  • Challenges in daily activities:Damaged tissue also makes it difficult for a person to exert themselves as they otherwise would, which can hinder even simple tasks such as climbing stairs.
  • Death:According to a 2018 report from the American Heart Association, about 14% of people who have a heart attack will die as a result.

When do you have to go to the hospital?

It cannot be stressed enough that any form of chest pain or discomfort, with or without other possible symptoms of a heart attackshould be treated as a medical emergency. The same goes for milder symptoms that seem to have no other cause, that feel strange or make you feel nauseous.panicof angst.

Always listen to your gut about any symptoms you are experiencing and go straight to the nearest hospital emergency room or call 911.

Anyone who has one or more risk factors for CAD should pay close attention to any sudden, unusual, or unexplained symptoms involving the upper half of the body.

A word from Verywell

Most hospitals are willing to provide prompt treatment after a heart attack.diagnoseit is obvious. Most of the delay in starting treatment is actually in the hands of the person experiencing the event. Take prompt action if you recognize possible heart attack symptoms and describe them as such to the medical team. Doctors, nurses, and paramedics won't judge you if they discover there's another explanation for how you feel. And if you're right, you'll get the treatment you need to stop the event and preserve as much heart tissue as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Causes a Heart Attack?

    The most commoncauseit is a blocked artery that prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the heart. This can happen when plaque in the artery breaks down and forms a clot. When oxygen cannot reach the heart, part of the heart muscle dies. A heart attack can also be caused by a severe spasm of a coronary artery that blocks blood flow to the heart.

  • How long do the symptoms of a heart attack last?

    The symptoms are likely to last more than a few minutes if they are caused by a heart attack. In some cases, the pain and discomfort may come and go over a period of several hours.If you think you're experiencing heart attack symptoms, don't wait to see how long they last. Call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.

  • What Are the Signs of a Silent Heart Attack?

    Asilent heart attackthey may not cause any symptoms or they may be mild and short-lived. If you notice mild symptoms, they may include:

    • Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for a few minutes or comes and goes
    • Discomfort in your upper back, neck, jaw, arms, or abdomen
    • shortness of breath
    • Nausea, dizziness, cold sweat

    If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Causes and risk factors for heart attacks

4 fonts

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. Read oureditorial processfor more information on how we fact-check our content and keep it accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Lichtman JH, Leifheit EC, Safdar B, et al.Gender Differences in Symptom Presentation and Perception in Young Patients with Myocardial Infarction: Evidence from the VIRGO Study (Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender in Outcomes in Young Patients with AMI).Circulation. 2018;137(8):781-790. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.031650.x

  2. Jackson MN, McCulloch BJ.'Heart attack' symptoms and decision making: the case of older rural women.Rural remote health care.

  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.Heart attack.

  4. Harvard Health Publication.The danger of 'silent' heart attacks.

Additional reading

Could you have a heart attack? How do you know what to do? (2)

DoorRichard N. Fogoros, MD
Richard N. Fogoros, MD, is a retired professor of medicine and board certified in internal medicine, clinical cardiology, and clinical electrophysiology.

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