Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

What are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

Heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people may have very few symptoms or may not experience the most common symptoms. If you have previously had a heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same for a second one. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all or very mild symptoms - this is called a silent heart attack.

How Long Can Heart Attack Symptoms Last?

Heart attack symptoms in men and women don’t always come on suddenly or intensely. Symptoms may start slowly and go on for hours, days, or weeks before an event actually occurs.

While heart attack symptoms can vary, the more signs and symptoms you experience, the greater the likelihood that you are having a heart attack. Recognizing the signs can ensure you get help as quickly as possible.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Men and Women

The most common heart attack symptoms and warning signs for both men and women include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort - Most heart attacks cause pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest. This feeling can be mild or severe. The discomfort typically lasts longer than a few minutes and can go away and return. It may feel like pressure, fullness, pain, or squeezing in the chest.
  • Upper body discomfort - Heart attacks may cause pain or discomfort in one or both arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach.
  • Shortness of breath - Shortness of breath may be the only symptom of a heart attack or may occur before or with chest pain. It can occur while resting or doing physical activity.

Other symptoms of heart attack may include:

  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heavy pounding of the heart
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Anxiety
  • Bluish lips, hands, or feet

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

As with men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely to have silent heart attacks or experience less common and less intense symptoms that can go ignored.

Some of the other common heart attack symptoms in women include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain or pressure in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Jaw, neck, or upper back pain
  • Sweating

The risk of heart attack increases in women after menopause, due to decreasing estrogen levels.

Post-menopause heart attack symptoms can include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Severe chest pain
  • Sweating without activity

When to Call a Doctor for Heart Attack Symptoms

If you or someone you are with experiences any of these heart attack symptoms, call for emergency medical help right away - even if you are unsure whether or not it is a heart attack. Some people wait too long because they don’t recognize all the signs and symptoms. Getting help right away can save a life.

Curious about how you can reduce your risk of a heart attack? Learn about the importance of heart health and exercise.