Heart Attack Symptoms

What is Heart Attach?

Heart attack is the death of a segment of heart muscle caused by the loss of blood supply. The blood supply is usually lost because a coronary artery, one that supplies blood to the heart muscle, has a blood clot, a blockage (coronary thrombosis). If some of the heart muscle dies, the patient experiences chest pain and electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue.


1. Chest discomfort or pain - This discomfort or pain can feel like a tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes. This discomfort may come and go.

2. Upper body pain - Pain or discomfort may spread beyond your chest to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or jaw. You may have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.

3. Stomach pain - Pain may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.

4. Shortness of breath - You may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. This often occurs before you develop chest discomfort or you may not experience any chest discomfort.

5. Anxiety - You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you're having a panic attack for no apparent reason.

6. Lightheadedness - In addition to chest pressure, you may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.

7. Sweating - You may suddenly break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.

8. Nausea and vomiting - You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.

9. Face seems gray

10. Restlessness

Most heart attacks begin with subtle symptoms — with only discomfort that often is not described as pain. The chest discomfort may come and go. Don't be tempted to downplay your symptoms or brush them off as indigestion or anxiety.

Don't "tough out" heart attack symptoms for more than five minutes. Call 911 or other emergency medical services for help. If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, if there are absolutely no other options.

Heart attack symptoms vary widely. For instance, you may have only minor chest discomfort while someone else has excruciating pain. One thing applies to everyone, though: If you suspect you're having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately.

Additional heart attack symptoms in women

Women may have all, none, many or a few of the typical heart attack symptoms. For women, the most common heart attack symptom is still some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But women are more likely than are men to also have heart attack symptoms without chest pain, such as:

1. Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort

2. Shortness of breath

3. Nausea or vomiting

4. Abdominal pain or "heartburn"

5. Sweating

6. Lightheadedness or dizziness

7. Unusual or unexplained fatigue

What are the causes of a heart attack?

Age - the largest risk factor. When a man is over 45 years, and a woman is over 55 years of age, their risk of having a heart attack starts to rise significantly.

Scientists from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that the visible physical signs of aging, such as the accumulation of fatty deposits on the eyelids and baldness are associated with a higher risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack.

Senior researcher, Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, said "The visible signs of aging reflect physiologic or biological age, not chronological age, and are independent of chronological age."

The researchers found that a receding hairline, baldness, earlobe crease and xanthelasmata (fatty deposits around the eyelids) increased heart attack risk by 57% and ischemic heart disease by 39%.

They presented their findings at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012 in Los Angeles.

Angina - angina is an illness where not enough oxygen is reaching the patient's heart. This raises the risk of a heart attack. In some cases a diagnosis of angina was wrong - it could have been a mild heart attack instead. The main difference between a heart attack and angina is that the patient with angina will feel better about 15 to 30 minutes after taking medication, while the heart attack patient won't.

Blood cholesterol levels - if a person's blood cholesterol levels are high, he/she runs a higher risk of developing blood clots in the arteries. Blood clots can block the supply of blood to the heart muscle, causing a heart attack.

Living near major highways - heart attack survivors who live near major highways have a 27% higher risk of another heart attack within a decade compared to survivors who live further away, researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reported in the journal Circulation (May 2012 issue).

The researchers compared heart attack survivors who lived within 328 feet (100 meters) or less from a major highway to their counterparts who lived at least 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) away.

Diabetes - people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing several diseases and conditions, many of them contribute to a higher risk of heart attack.

Diet - a person who consumes large quantities of, for example, animal fats, or saturated fats, will eventually have a higher risk of having a heart attack.

Gut bacteria can cause heart problems - the action of bacteria in the intestines on certain compounds contained in digested food, especially lecithin, is linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, USA, reported in NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine (April 2013 issue). Eggs are rich in lecithin.

A growing number of studies have been suggesting a link between the action of gut bacteria and heart attack and stroke risk.

In another study, published in Nature Medicine (April 2013 issue), scientists explained that L-carnitine, a compound added to energy drinks and found in red meat, may increase heart risk, because gut bacteria digest it and produce TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide). TMAO is a metabolite that experts believe clogs up the arteries.

Genes - you can inherit a higher risk of heart attack from your parents, and/or their parents. A person whose sibling died of a heart attack has a higher risk of suffering a fatal heart attack, a report published in the Journal of the American Heart Association informed.

Heart surgery - patients who have had heart surgery have a higher risk of having a heart attack.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) - this could be due to lack of physical activity, overweight/obesity, diabetes, genes, and some other factors.

Obesity, overweight - as more and more people are overweight, especially children, experts believe heart attacks will become more common in future (if the overweight children become overweight adults). Physical inactivity - people who do not exercise have a much higher risk of having a heart attack, compared to people who exercise regularly.

Previous heart attack - anybody who has already had a heart attack is more likely to have another one, compared to other people.

Smoking - people who smoke heavily or regularly run a much higher risk of heart attack, compared to people who never smoked and those who gave up. Smoking regularly means smoking every day.

Being HIV positive - people who are HIV positive have a 50% higher risk of heart attack, researchers reported in JAMA Internal Medicine (March 2013 issue)

Work stress - if you have a very demanding job, not much freedom to make decisions, i.e. a job with a lot of stress, your risk of heart attack is higher-than-normal, researchers from University College London reported in The Lancet.

Shift work was also linked to a higher risk of heart attack, according to an analysis that reviewed studies covering over two million people.

Calcium supplements - a study published in the journal Heart (May 2012 issue), which analyzed data on nearly 24,000 people over a ten-year period, suggested that taking calcium supplements may raise the risk of heart attack.