If you're having a heart attack, every second counts. Unfortunately, people are often reluctant to call for help because they don't realize that they're having a heart attack. This is due in part to the misleading effect of the "Hollywood heart attack." In the movies, heart attacks are typically portrayed as someone becoming woozy and dropping to the floor clutching their chest, often quite dramatically. Real life is somewhat different.
While it's possible to have a "Hollywood heart attack," most people's experiences are not so Oscar-worthy. Often a heart attack begins with a feeling of dizziness. During a heart attack, blood flow to the brain is restricted [source: MedLinePlus]. This causes dizziness or lightheadedness, which may be accompanied by feelings of euphoria and/or disorientation. Along with indigestion and sweating, dizziness is one of the more commonly overlooked symptoms of a heart attack, particularly among women [source: ABC News].
Dizziness may or may not cause you to pass out [source: Women's Health]. If it doesn't, luck is on your side. Take advantage of your good fortune and call 911 immediately. And remember that time is of the essence – half of all cardiac deaths occur within one hour of symptom onset [source: CDC].
Don't worry that you're overreacting. It's always better to be safe than sorry. However, the next heart attack symptom we review also has several causes but it's far more likely to have people calling for help.