If the arteries leading to your heart become too narrowed by plaque, or if plaque buildup causes a blood clot that blocks the arteries to your heart, you may have a heart attack. Warning signs of a heart attack can differ from one person to the next. If you have symptoms of a heart attack, get immediate emergency medical care.
Here are the classic symptoms of a heart attack:
- crushing pain, pressure, or squeezing in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. It may also feel heavy, stabbing, or burning. The pain may spread to your back, neck, shoulders, arms, or jaw
- discomfort in your chest possibly along with feeling lightheaded, fainting, sweating, feeling nauseous, or becoming short of breath
Other symptoms that may be present during a heart attack:
- anxiety that begins for no reason, weakness, or fatigue
- nausea, dizziness, or difficulty breathing, without chest pain
- back pain
- dry mouth
- pain in the arm
- pain in the lower jaw or throat
- rapid heartbeat, cold sweat, or paleness
- sense of impending doom
- stomach or abdominal pain, sometimes mistaken for indigestion
- cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing with or without chest pain
Symptoms can vary from person to person. For instance, if you are a woman, you may have less chest pain than a man might have. If you have diabetes or are older than age 75, the chest pain and tightness you feel may be less than what someone else would feel. Or you may feel no symptoms at all. Also, not all symptoms occur in every heart attack. Even if you've had a heart attack before, a second one may feel different.
While symptoms most often occur in the morning within a few hours of waking, they can happen at any time of the day or night. Symptoms may appear, go away, and then return. You can also have a heart attack with no symptoms. The Framingham Heart Study, which has followed 4,000 men for more than 40 years, showed that one out of every four heart attacks went unnoticed until they were discovered through testing. These episodes, also called silent heart attacks, are a problem especially for people with diabetes and for those who are age 75 or older. Despite the lack of pain, silent heart attacks can damage the heart or even result in death.