Some people experience signs and symptoms of a heart attack hours, days, and even weeks in advance. The symptoms and severity can vary greatly depending on the individual, and can often start as subtle warning signs that can occur intermittently and build over time.
The most common presentation of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort, which can feel like pressure, tightness, aching, burning, or fullness. Patients have described this sensation as feeling like an elephant is sitting on their chest.
Having shortness of breath or labored breathing, especially while resting can be a sign of heart attack or heart failure (heart function is abnormal).
Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded, nausea, sweating, unexplained/excessive fatigue, panic attack, or unexplained feeling of anxiety.
Some individuals may not have chest pain/discomfort and present with unusual signs and symptoms which can include heartburn, indigestion, stabbing pain with coughing and breathing, irregular heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. This is most common is older adults, women, and diabetic patients.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain, but women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly flu-like symptoms, unusual fatigue, heartburn, shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year and claiming more lives than all forms of cancer.