heart attack symptoms


Heart attack symptoms aren’t always as dramatic as they’re portrayed on screen.

Quick notes:

  • Not every heart attack is accompanied by chest pain

  • There are a plethora of other cardiac and full-body symptoms that may indicate that you’re suffering from (or near experiencing) a heart attack

  • If you experience any of these symptoms, don’t brush them aside; seek medical help ASAP

Although there are times when heart attacks mirror the fall-to-the-floor moments we see in films, they aren’t always so intense. Additionally, not every heart attack is characterized by sudden and/or stabbing chest pain. These are other substantial symptoms to be aware of so that you can be prepared in the event of a cardiac crisis.

Chest-centric symptoms

Chest discomfort. This might be one of the more obvious symptoms, yet you should never brush aside any chest pain, tightness, aching, restriction, or pressure. Discomfort doesn’t always manifest as pain. It can also show up as pressure or tightness, and often does for women. If this feeling lasts longer than a few minutes, you might be having — or be close to having — a heart attack.

Heart palpitations. Long-term and consistent heart palpitations are a red flag for heart issues. That being said, heart palpitations don’t necessarily signal trouble. Sometimes, they result from exercise, stress, anxiety, caffeine, exhaustion, or other physical/lifestyle issues. However, if you experience frequent, excessive, or lengthy heart palpitations, check-in with your doctor to ensure that you’re not suffering from atrial fibrillation.

Full-body symptoms

Spreading pain. If you experience pain in your chest that spreads, it may indicate an oncoming (or occurring) heart attack. Where might aching and pain related to heart complications spread? Heart-related pain may spread to your jaw, your teeth, your throat, your shoulders, your back, your arms, or even your stomach. Remember: Any pain above your hips may be related to your heart.

Cold sweats. This is a major acute warning sign. If you begin to experience excessive cold sweats without any obvious source, especially if they don’t subside, you may be experiencing a heart attack (or another major medical emergency). If you break out into an excessive or lengthy chilly sweat, don’t try to get yourself to a hospital. Call someone else or 9-1-1 to get you to the E.R.

Remember: Any pain above your hips may be related to your heart.

Difficulty breathing. This applies to both short-term and long-term difficulties breathing. If you suddenly struggle to breathe, it’s essential to get to a hospital as soon as possible. However, general shortness of breath may also manifest across the course of several days or weeks. If you begin to find yourself struggling to breathe after tasks that don’t typically take your breath away, get in with your doctor to see if you may be suffering from heart troubles.

Less-obvious symptoms

Faintness or fatigue. If you experience sudden fainting or abrupt, disorienting fatigue, these sensations may be related to your heart. Either symptom could serve as a warning sign for a heart attack or signal other issues within your cardiac system. They could also indicate other serious health complications, so whether you believe they’re heart-related or not, get in with your doctor for a check-up.


Excessively nauseous? Don’t brush it aside as something you ate.

If you begin to feel queasy/vomit accompanied by pressure in your upper abdomen, these might be some of the early symptoms of a heart attack. Excessive or uncontrollable vomiting should always constitute a trip to the hospital.

An unshakeable cough. Do you have a cough that you just can’t shake? This is often the result of a cold, the flu, bronchitis, or other common illnesses, yet it could also signal issues with your heart health. If you cough up pink/white mucus for an extended period of time, your heart might be struggling to function, causing it to leak blood back into your lungs. This could lead to heart failure.

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

A deeper look at the smart technology designed to help you keep track of your blood pressure.

One way to fight heart-related issues? Develop an exercise routine.