• By Dana Sparks

Heart attack symptoms: Know what’s a medical emergency

February 5, 2019

a middle aged woman holding her hand to her chest in pain, as if she's having a heart attackMost heart attacks begin with subtle symptoms — with only discomfort that often is not described as pain. The chest discomfort may come and go. Don't be tempted to downplay your symptoms or brush them off as indigestion or anxiety.

Heart attack symptoms vary widely. For instance, you may have only minor chest discomfort while someone else has excruciating pain. But one thing applies to everyone: If you suspect you're having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately.Common heart attack signs and symptoms include:

  • Chest discomfort or pain
    This discomfort or pain can feel like a tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in your chest lasting more than a few minutes. Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back. This discomfort may come and go.
  • Upper body pain
    Pain or discomfort may spread beyond your chest to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or jaw. You may have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.
  • Abdominal and stomach pain
    Pain may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.
  • Shortness of breath
    You may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. This often occurs before you develop chest discomfort, or you may not experience any chest discomfort.
  • Heart palpitations
     You may feel as if your heart is skipping beats, or you may just be very aware that your heart is beating.
  • Anxiety
    You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you're having a panic attack for no apparent reason.
  • Fatigue
    Feeling more exhausted and tired than usual.
  • Lightheaded or sudden dizziness
    In addition to chest pressure, you may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.
  • Cold sweat
    You may suddenly break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
  • Nausea, indigestion or vomiting
    You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.

Don't "tough out" heart attack symptoms for more than five minutes. Call 911 or other emergency medical services for help.

If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, if there are absolutely no other options.

This article is written by Mayo Clinic Staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.