Heart attacks are not always like what we see in movies, where sudden chest discomfort sends a person tumbling to the floor. In real life, symptoms vary from person to person, and they don't usually come out of the blue. The more severe signs are generally unique to a problem with the heart, so a person experiencing any of them should speak to a doctor immediately.

Chest Pain and Discomfort

A painful or clenching feeling in the chest is a sign of a blocked cardiac artery or an impending heart attack. An affected individual may feel pressure in the chest accompanied by heaviness or crushing pain. The feeling can last for more than a few minutes and may be brought on by physical activity.

If the pain is very brief and mild, lasting only a few seconds, it is probably not a symptom related to the heart. But severe and prolonged pain signifies an emergency and the need to call 911.


Intense Sweating

People on the brink of a heart attack experience profuse sweating without any apparent cause; they often wake up in a cold sweat and may have an unnatural pallor to their face. Sweating during a heart attack may be due to activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The body does this in reaction to either the pain or to low blood pressure. Profuse sweating is also a symptom of other heart-related problems. The sweats might strike during the night or day.

Anyone who begins sweating without any increase in activity could be experiencing a heart-related issue. Sweating can occur with a variety of health problems and, in and of itself, doesn't indicate heart disease, but it should be medically examined.

intense sweating can indicate a heart attack


Shortness of Breath

Added stress on the heart often results in shortness of breath or breathlessness. This is dyspnea and is a common indicator of a heart attack. This is not just the body indicating it needs rest. It can happen when the heart has trouble filling up and emptying efficiently. Eventually, this causes high blood pressure as fluid pools around the lungs.

This symptom often occurs with other symptoms such as swelling of the ankles, fluid-weight gain, insomnia, difficulty breathing when lying in bed, and unusual fatigue.


Indigestion or Stomach Ache

A stomach ache or indigestion without any clear reason could seem to point to a GI issue, but heart disease can also cause this symptom; usually, it is chest pain that is mistaken for indigestion or a stomach ache. This misidentification can result in a delay in treatment.

The cause is a reduction of the blood supply to the heart, and the symptom usually follows a blockage in the cardiac arteries. This can result in angina marked by symptoms like cramping and pain.

Symptoms of a heart attack can differ in males and females. Read our article on Heart Attack Symptoms Every Woman Should Know.


Abnormal or Irregular Heartbeat

Sudden bouts of rapid and irregular pulse can be a symptom of a heart attack. This is particularly the case when accompanied by dizziness or lightheadedness. Erratic heartbeat, along with an increased number of beats per minute indicates a need for immediate evaluation.

Though skipped heartbeats should be medically examined in the absence of other symptoms and if you're otherwise healthy, they aren't usually dangerous. People can confuse such fast and irregular heartbeat patterns with panic attacks.


Pain in Throat and Jaw

Chest pain is the most defining sign of a heart attack and is the symptom everybody knows. Focusing entirely on chest pain makes it easy to miss this sign if the pain radiates to the jaw and throat. The pain in these spots can be a dull ache or a sharp sensation.

For some people having a heart attack, this may be the first sign they notice. Pain in these areas but not the chest, which is where the pain often starts, can cause confusion. The biological reason for this referred pain remains mostly a mystery to science.



Extreme tiredness may be a sign of underlying heart problems. This is more likely if the fatigue happens after one does something they were previously able to do without getting tired, such as climbing stairs or taking a walk. Some people experience exhaustion even upon waking up in the morning. This may also interfere with one's ability to perform daily tasks.

This kind of exhaustion, when associated with a heart attack, is due to the heart working harder to pump the same amount of blood. The energy this burns results in fatigue and drowsiness.

Severe exhaustion can indicate various health issues. Read on: Malaise: Much More Than Fatigue.



People may experience dizziness and lightheadedness before a heart attack, symptoms that can cause problems on their own, such as losing balance or fainting. This is serious as there is a risk of injury. This is especially true if it occurs while driving or operating machinery. Dizziness combined with other symptoms of a heart attack should prompt a person to seek immediate medical attention.


Anxiety and Insomnia

Anxiety and insomnia are not, in and of themselves, specific to heart attacks. More than likely, there are other causes at work. In most cases, experiencing these symptoms is not indicative of a heart attack. However, both anxiety and insomnia, usually a result of decreased oxygen in the blood, can be associated with heart disease. They may also be an early sign of a heart attack. This is particularly the case when the anxiety is associated with pain or pressure in the chest. Together, these are frequently signs of a cardiovascular problem.


Pain in Other Areas

Pain and discomfort can radiate from the chest to areas like the neck and jaw. The stomach, shoulder, upper abdomen, and throat can also feel pain. A mild tingling sensation or pain in these body parts sometimes precedes a heart attack.

Doctors have begun to pay more attention to this tingling as a symptom. This is because patients recovering after a heart attack often report pain in other body parts from before the heart attack.

Now that you know some common symptoms of this dangerous condition, learn about these 11 Tips to Prevent a Heart Attack.


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