Act Fast When Having A Heart Attack

Knowing how to identify the symptoms of a heart attack and how seeking care quickly can save the life of someone you love or even your own.

Healthy Heart|Jul.14, 2017

To help physicians more quickly and accurately evaluate if patients are having a heart attack, new, highly sensitive blood tests are in development and are designed to detect even minor heart attacks. It is important to know the symptoms of heart attack to save time at the hospital and expedite treatment.1

Common Signs of a Heart Attack2

While the signs of heart attack can be different for men and women, the most common symptoms for both genders include:

Chest pain or discomfort

Pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest is the most common heart attack symptom in both men and women. The pain or discomfort for both genders may be mild or severe and can feel like pressure, fullness or squeezing. The pain may come and go or be constant. It's important to remember that only half of women who have heart attacks experience chest pain and that people with diabetes may not feel chest pain at all due to nerve damage.

Upper body discomfort

You may have pain or discomfort in one or both arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw or upper part of the stomach above your belly button.

Shortness of breath

You may become short of breath at rest or while doing minor physical activity. This may be your only symptom. Or, it may happen before or at the same time as chest pain or discomfort.

Other Heart Attack Symptoms3

During a heart attack, men are more likely than women to break out in a cold sweat and report pain in the left arm. Women are somewhat more likely to experience nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, and pain in the jaw, back and shoulders.

Every Minute Matters

If you think you're having a heart attack — even if you're not sure — call an ambulance immediately. If one isn't available, seek medical attention as soon as possible.


1Avoiding heart attacks and strokes: Don't be a victim, protect yourself. Geneva, World Health Organization. 2005.
2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease? Accessed September 26, 2011.
3U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack? Accessed December 17, 2013.

Information provided is for general background purposes and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by a trained professional. You should always consult your physician about any healthcare questions you may have, especially before trying a new medication, diet, fitness program, or approach to healthcare issues.