Heart attack and heart failure problems are often manageable and treatable — many people recover fully — but they remain a leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
Recognizing signs of heart failure and heart attack can be key to saving lives so you should be aware of uncommon as well as common symptoms of heart attack and failure.
Heart Attack vs. Heart Failure
Some signs of heart failure can overlap with heart attack symptoms but one key distinguishing factor is that heart failure tends to develop slowly and worsen over time. Heart failure happens when your heart is damaged and it weakens. It's not able to pump blood as efficiently.
A heart attack happens when the blood supply to your heart is reduced or stopped, often because the arteries become blocked. The Mayo Clinic notes that heart attacks from coronary artery disease can lead to heart failure.
Common Symptoms of Heart Attack
Chest pain, pressure or discomfort is the most common heart attack symptom for men and women, but it's not the only sign to look for. Other symptoms include:
- Aching pain in the arms, jaw, back, shoulders or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or dizziness
- Severe fatigue that can last for days
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
The experience of a heart attack is not the same for everyone. Women and people with diabetes are less likely to experience chest pain as the dominant symptom. Women are more likely than men to have nausea, dizziness, pain in the back or jaw, or fatigue, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Men are more likely to experience a cold sweat or pain in the left arm. Some people have no symptoms at all or mild discomfort, which is called a silent heart attack.
You may experience sharp chest pain, along with nausea or upper body discomfort or break out in a cold sweat. However, you may also feel unusually tired with a slight discomfort in your chest. The symptoms may persist or they may come and go.
The exact symptoms and how they occur vary widely, so if you notice any unusual tiredness, aches, twinges or pain, call 911 right away.
Signs of Heart Failure
Heart failure is a chronic condition that develops slowly and worsens over time as your heart struggles to pump blood efficiently. However, you may experience some similar symptoms to heart attack such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, nausea and fatigue. Heart failure also causes swelling, rapid weight gain and confusion.
If you notice you're not able to be as active as you once were or experience any other signs of heart failure, see a doctor right away. Getting treatment early for the disease can support your heart and help preventing worsening complications like heart attack.
It's important to remember that heart failure doesn't mean your heart has failed — it's just not working as well as it could. A prompt diagnosis can allow you to make positive life changes and live more healthily than ever before.