Each year, approximately 720,000 Americans have a heart attack (source: CDC). The symptoms of a heart attack vary not only from person to person, but also from one heart attack experience to another in the same individual. It is important to remember that heart attacks can come on gradually or all of a sudden, so be sure to know the symptoms and act quickly if you or your loved one could be experiencing a heart attack.
1. Chest Pain or Discomfort
The most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain or discomfort in either the center of the chest or on the left side. This pain usually lasts a few minutes or comes and goes in waves. The sensation can be mild to severe and feel like heartburn or indigestion.
2. Upper Body Pain or Discomfort
While many people typically expect heart attack pain to be centralized around their chest and left arm, pain can strike different parts of the upper body. Many women who’ve had a heart attack experienced back, neck or jaw pain that came on gradually or all of a sudden and was strong enough to wake them from sleep. Any unexplainable pain should be reported to your doctor immediately.
3. Shortness of Breath, Light Headedness, and Cold Sweats
Many people can experience cold sweats, shortness of breath or lightheadedness when having a heart attack. A nervous, anxiety-like feeling accompanied by a cold sweat takes over the body. If you experience these symptoms without an apparent reason, such as physical exercise, it could be a heart attack.
4. Feeling Unusually Tired
Some individuals who have heart attacks feel extremely tired even if they’ve been sitting still. Sometimes the sense of fatigue is accompanied by a feeling of tiredness in the chest with an inability to complete simple activities such as walking to another room.
5. Nausea and Vomiting
For some individuals, pressure in the upper abdominal area is linked to a heart attack, but it is often confused as heartburn or a stomach ulcer. This symptom can range from light pressure to severe pressure that feels like there is extreme weight on your abdomen causing intense pain. Nausea and vomiting may also occur.
During a heart attack, every second counts, which is why it is important to call 9-1-1 or rush to your closest emergency room as soon as you suspect an attack may be happening.