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Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Chest pain is often thought of as the main sign of a heart attack. It can feel like squeezing or pressure in the middle of the chest. It may last a while, or go away and come back. But, not all people having a heart attack feel the same pain. Women, older people, or people with certain health problems may not feel pain or have classic symptoms.

Heart Attack Symptoms

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Other common symptoms:

  • Discomfort or pain in the arms, back, jaw, neck, or stomach
  • Trouble catching your breath with or without chest pain
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of doom or death

Women may have other symptoms that are not as clear or obvious. They may or may not be with those listed above. These are:

  • Feeling very tired—can happen days or weeks ahead of other symptoms
  • Pressure or pain in the lower chest, upper belly, or upper back
  • Lightheadedness—may lead to fainting

Heart attacks can cause lasting heart damage or death. Do not drive yourself or someone to the hospital. Call emergency medical services so treatment can be started on the way to the hospital. Doing so will lower the amount of heart damage and increase the chances of survival.


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Acute myocardial infarction (MI). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/coronary-artery-disease/acute-myocardial-infarction-mi. Updated December 2018. Accessed March 27, 2019.

Heart attack symptoms in women. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack/heart-attack-symptoms-in-women. Accessed March 27, 2019.

ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115392/ST-elevation-myocardial-infarction-STEMI. Updated July 10, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2019.

Warning signs of a heart attack. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack. Accessed March 27, 2019.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC  Last Updated: 3/27/2019