Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
Many people think that a heart attack is sudden and intense, like the ‘Hollywood’ heart attack depicted in the movies where a person clutches his or her chest and falls over. The truth is that many heart attacks start as a mild discomfort in the center of the chest.
Someone who feels such a ‘non-Hollywood’ warning may not be sure what is wrong. The discomfort (and other symptoms) may even come and go. Even people who have had a heart attack may not recognize the signs because the next one can have entirely different symptoms.
The warning signs of a heart attack are described below. Learn them, but also remember the following: Even if you are not sure it is a heart attack, you should still check it out promptly. This includes any sudden, new symptoms or a change in the pattern of symptoms you already have (for example, your symptoms become stronger, become more frequent, or last longer than usual).
1. Chest Discomfort
Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back.
Everyone has a different word for that feeling. Some people say it’s like an elephant is sitting on them. Other people say it’s like a pinching or burning. The feeling usually lasts longer than a few minutes. It may happen when you’re at rest or when you’re doing something physical.
If it’s just a very brief pain — or if it’s a spot that hurts more when you touch or push on it — it’s probably not your heart. You should still get it checked out by a doctor. If the symptoms are more severe and don’t go away after a few minutes, you should call 911.
2. Nausea, Indigestion, Heartburn, or Stomach Pain
Some people have these symptoms during a heart attack. They may even vomit. Women are more likely to report this type of symptom than men are.
Of course, you can have an upset stomach for many reasons that have nothing to do with your heart. It could just be something you ate, after all. But you need to be aware that it can also happen during a heart attack.
So if you feel this way and you’re at risk for heart problems, let a doctor find out what’s going on, especially if you also have any of the other symptoms on this list.
3. Pain that Spreads to the Arm
Another classic heart attack symptom is pain that radiates down the left side of the body.
It almost always starts from the chest and moves outward. But there are people who have mainly arm pain that turn out to be heart attacks.