Symptoms of Heart attack


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General information about symptoms of Heart attack: The symptom information on this page attempts to provide a list of some possible symptoms of Heart attack. This symptom information has been gathered from various sources, may not be fully accurate, and may not be the full list of symptoms of Heart attack. Furthermore, symptoms of Heart attack may vary on an individual basis for each patient. Only your doctor can provide adequate diagnosis of symptoms and whether they are indeed symptoms of Heart attack.

List of symptoms of Heart attack: The list of symptoms mentioned in various sources for Heart attack includes:

Symptoms of Heart attack: Often, it is not easy to tell. But there are symptoms people may have. These are: an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back; discomfort in other areas of the upper body, which may be felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach; shortness of breath, which often occurs with or before chest discomfort; and other symptoms such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness. When in doubt, check it out! Call 9-1-1. Don’t wait more than a few minutes–5 at most. Call right away!1

If you have any heart attack symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Don’t wait for more than a few minutes–5 at most–to call 9-1-1.1

What are the signs of a heart attack? Many people think a heart attack is sudden and intense, like a "movie" heart attack, where a person clutches his or her chest and falls over.

The truth is that many heart attacks start slowly, as a mild pain or discomfort. If you feel such a symptom, you may not be sure what's wrong. Your symptoms may even come and go. Even those who have had a heart attack may not recognize their symptoms, because the next attack can have entirely different ones.2

It's vital that everyone learn the warning signs of a heart attack. These are:

Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
 

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort 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, nausea, or light-headedness.
 

2

Expectations often don't match reality when it comes to heart attack. People expect a heart attack to happen as it does in the movies, where someone clutches his or her chest in pain and falls over. Because of this expectation, people often are not sure if they're having a heart attack. As a result, people often take a wait-and-see approach instead of seeking care at once. This even happens to people who have already had a heart attack. They may not recognize the symptoms, because their next heart attack can have entirely different symptoms.3

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack Include:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, numbness or tingling in the left arm.
  • Pain that may spread to the shoulders, neck, or arms.
  • Indigestion, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fainting, or fatigue.

Not all of these symptoms occur before or during a heart attack, especially for women. Likewise, they can be either mild or severe and can subside and then return. Frequently, women mistake pain signaling a heart attack as indigestion.4

Although heart attack symptoms vary from person to person, a classic warning sign for women is chest pain (great pressure, heaviness, fullness, squeezing or crushing pain in the chest). Women may experience other symptoms, including sweating, nausea, indigestion, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, unexplained anxiety, palpitations, paleness, lightheadedness or fainting. Pain or discomfort may also be felt in the back, shoulders, jaw, neck, or arms. 5

Not all women and men experience heart attacks the same. Women can have the classic warning signchest painbut they also report having other symptoms such as sweating, nausea, indigestion, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, palpitations, lightheadedness, fainting or even pain or discomfort in the back, shoulders, jaw, neck, or arms.

Women may describe pain or discomfort somewhat differently from men, and may be more likely to think they are just having indigestion. Women who experience a heart attack are also known to wait longer than men to call for help. In addition, some studies have shown that women who tell their health care provider about their heart attack symptoms are not always treated as aggressively as men with similar symptoms. Failure to recognize or believe that a heart attack is taking place is a big problem for both men and women and leads to dangerous delays in seeking treatment. 5

More symptoms of Heart attack: In addition to the above information, to get a full picture of the possible symptoms of this condition and its related conditions, it may be necessary to examine symptoms that may be caused by complications of Heart attack, underlying causes of Heart attack, associated conditions for Heart attack, risk factors for Heart attack, or other related conditions.

Medical articles on symptoms: These general reference articles may be of interest:



Footnotes:
1. excerpt from Frequently Asked Questions About Heart Attack: NHLBI
2. excerpt from Heart Attack Warning Signs: NHLBI
3. excerpt from Uncertainty Is Normal: NHLBI
4. excerpt from Fact Sheet Heart Disease and Stroke in Women: NWHIC
5. excerpt from Heart Attack: NWHIC

Last revision: April 9, 2003

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