How Do You Know If You Are Having a Heart Attack?

A heart attack may strike anyone.  Whether you are a man or woman, you may have warning signs of a heart attack or it can come out of nowhere.  Knowing what symptoms to look for can be life saving, especially if you have risk for heart disease or you have known heart disease.  It is important to know that these symptoms can be different if you are a man or a woman.
Here are the most common symptoms of a heart attack.

Chest Pain or Discomfort

While chest pain is the usual symptom of a heart attack, one-third of patients who have heart attacks have no chest pain.   People without chest pain are more frequently diabetics and women.

Chest pain can be described as heaviness, tightness, pressure, aching, burning, numbness, fullness, or a squeezing feeling in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes. This sensation may then spread to your back, neck or jaw.

Men and women may feel the discomfort in a different way. While men may typically feel the pain on the left side, women may feel the discomfort anywhere in the chest.

Arm, Neck or Jaw Pain

Chest pain that radiates to your arm, neck, or jaw is worrisome. The pain may come and go before becoming intense or it may strike suddenly too.

Stomach Pain or Nausea

Some people experience stomach pain or nausea before and during a heart attack. Many times people think it is a stomach or a digestive problem, instead of a cardiovascular problem.  Besides stomach pain and nausea, other digestive symptoms including heartburn, indigestion, a feeling of fullness in the stomach, and lower abdominal pain.

Lack of circulation to the gut during a heart attack can cause ongoing nausea, vomiting, or indigestion.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath with exertion is a warning sign of cardiovascular disease and can precede a heart attack.  If shortness of breath occurs without exertion, it is more worrisome, especially if you have known heart disease.

Excessive Sweating

Excessive sweating is a common symptom that accompanies a heart attack.  Typically, heart attack symptoms are from over-activation of the “fight or flight” part of your nervous system.  Excessive sweating is a reflection of this neuro-hormonal imbalance.

Interestingly this heart attack symptom was THE symptom that made people seek treatment early, especially among younger people with heart attacks.   It was a RED flag that made people suspect their symptoms were serious and many went to the hospital within 3 hours of their first symptoms.

Lightheadedness or Dizziness

People with heart attacks often feel light headed, dizzy, or may even faint.  Fainting is worrisome of right coronary artery blockage or a fatal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.


The fatigue that accompanies a heart attack is typically debilitating.  However, fatigue of any degree is nearly universal with a heart attack.

Trouble Speaking

Often, a person having a heart attack will have troubles speaking.  Many times, you can’t understand them because their speech is slurred.  In fact, they may be unable to utter a simple sentence.

Other Symptoms

People who are having a heart attack may also experience (a) an increased or irregular heart rate (b) paleness or palor (c) a feeling of impending doom (d) face drooping or (e) numbness in their face or upper body.

Knowing these signs of heart attack can help save your life.  If you suspect you or someone you know are having signs of a heart attack, you should immediately call 911 or other emergency medical services for help.

However, there are many things you can do to prevent a heart attack as Steven Masley discusses in The 30 Day Heart Tune Up.

This post is meant to be purely educational and is NOT medical advice.