Heart Disease

Save A Life: Know the signs of a heart attack

Heart disease includes a number of conditions that affect your heart. These conditions can include blood vessel diseases, heart rhythm problems, or heart defects. Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated by making healthy lifestyle choices.


Can you spot the signs of a heart attack? You'll lower your chance of dying from one if you know the common and uncommon signs and symptoms, and what to do if they strike.

Only 27 percent of people know the major symptoms of a heart attack which require immediate medical care, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Common heart attack signs

The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain. But there are other common signs and symptoms you should know:

  • A feeling of pressure, squeezing or fullness in the chest, or a feeling of heartburn or indigestion.
  • Pain in your back, shoulders, arms, neck or jaw.
  • Feeling faint or light-headed with chest discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath at rest or with little activity.
  • Sweating, nausea or vomiting.

Less common signs

There are less common symptoms that also shouldn't be ignored. Studies have found that a third of people who had a heart attack had no chest pain. Women, older adults and people with diabetes were more likely to fall into this group.

Less common signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Unexplained anxiety.
  • Weakness.
  • Fatigue for no reason, even lasting days.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Cold sweat.

What you can do to save a life

If you or someone near you experiences any signs or symptoms of a heart attack, call 911—even if you're not sure. It's the fastest way to get immediate medical care.

Keep these points in mind:

  • Always call 911 for chest pain. It's a clear sign you need help.
  • Heart attacks can feel different. Your symptoms could vary from a friend's or relative's. And even if you've had a heart attack before, another one may feel different.
  • Some symptoms are more prevalent in women. Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath; nausea; vomiting; fatigue; or pain in the back, jaw or shoulders.
  • Signs may be subtle if you have diabetes. People with high blood sugar are more likely to report mild symptoms—or none at all.
  • Symptoms don't always come on suddenly. Sometimes symptoms develop over hours, days, or weeks. Or they may go away and come back.

Someone has a heart attack every 43 seconds, according to the American Heart Association. Know how to spot one if it happens to you.