If you ask about the symptoms of a heart attack, most people think of chest pain. Over the last couple of decades, however, scientists have learned that heart attack symptoms aren’t always so clear-cut.
Symptoms may show up in different ways and can depend on a number of factors, such as whether you’re a man or a woman, what type of heart disease you have, and how old you are.
It’s important to dig a little deeper to understand the variety of symptoms that may indicate a heart attack. Uncovering more information can help you learn when to help yourself and your loved ones.
Early symptoms of a heart attack
The sooner you get help for a heart attack, the better your chances for a complete recovery. Unfortunately, many people hesitate to get help, even if they suspect there’s something wrong.
Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person and even from one heart attack to another. The important thing is to trust yourself. You know your body better than anyone. If something feels wrong, get emergency care right away.
Early symptoms of heart attack can include the following:
• mild pain or discomfort in your chest that may come and go, which is also called “stuttering” chest pain
• pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw
• nausea or vomiting
• lightheadedness or fainting
• feeling of “impending doom”
• severe anxiety or confusion
SYMPTOMS IN MEN
Symptoms of a heart attack in men
You’re more likely to experience a heart attack if you’re a man. Men also have heart attacks earlier in life compared to women.
If you have a family history of heart disease or a history of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, or other risk factors, your chances of having a heart attack are even higher.
Symptoms of a heart attack in men include:
• standard chest pain/pressure that feels like “an elephant” is sitting on your chest, with a squeezing sensation that may come and go or remain constant and intense
• upper body pain or discomfort, including arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
• rapid or irregular heartbeat
• stomach discomfort that feels like indigestion
• shortness of breath, which may leave you feeling like you can’t get enough air, even when you’re resting
• dizziness or feeling like you’re going to pass out
• breaking out in a cold sweat
Your symptoms may not fit this cookie-cutter description. Trust your instincts if you think something is wrong.
SYMPTOMS IN WOMEN
Symptoms of a heart attack in women
In recent decades, scientists have realized that heart attack symptoms can be quite different for women than for men.
The most frequently reported symptoms didn’t include chest pain. Instead, women reported unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.
Symptoms of heart attack in women include:
• unusual fatigue lasting for several days or sudden severe fatigue
• sleep disturbances
• shortness of breath
• indigestion or gas-like pain
• upper back, shoulder, or throat pain
• jaw pain or pain that spreads up to your jaw
• pressure or pain in the center of your chest, which may spread to your arm
Base your decision on what feels normal and abnormal for you. If you haven’t experienced symptoms like this before, don’t hesitate to get help. If you don’t agree with your doctor’s conclusion, get a second opinion.
Silent heart attack symptoms
A silent heart attack is like any other heart attack, except it occurs without the usual symptoms. In other words, you may not even realize you’ve experienced a heart attack.
Silent heart attacks are more common among people with diabetes and in those who’ve had previous heart attacks.
Symptoms that may indicate a silent heart attack include:
• mild discomfort in your chest, arms, or jaw that goes away after resting
• shortness of breath and tiring easily
• sleep disturbances and increased fatigue
• abdominal pain or heartburn
• skin clamminess
After having a silent heart attack, you may experience more fatigue than before or find that exercise becomes more difficult.
Schedule regular checkups
By scheduling regular checkups and learning to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, you can help lower your risk of severe heart damage from a heart attack.
This may increase your life expectancy and well-being.