Signs and Symptoms


According to the American Heart Association, heart attacks claim a victim approximately every 43 seconds. Because 80 percent of heart attacks occur in private, residential settings, it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms. Knowing the common signs of a heart attack can mean the difference between life and death because heart attacks require immediate medical attention.

If the symptoms aren’t the chest-crushing pain that you see in the movies, then many people dismiss them as temporary illnesses such as nausea or acid reflux and will try to “power through” the symptoms. This only leads to more heart damage, or even death.

The reason people may not know they are having a heart attack is because most heart attacks start out slowly with less common warning signs such as nausea or dizziness and the person doesn’t experience chest pain. They may feel weakness or fatigue, break into a cold sweat or become very pale and think it’s just a cold or flu coming on.

Here are some of the common signs that can mean a heart attack is happening, according to the American Heart Association:

  • Chest discomfort. The majority of heart attacks include discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. Sometimes the pain goes away and then returns. It can be an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Chest pain or discomfort is the most common heart attack symptom for both men and women.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. is may or may not be accompanied by chest discomfort.
  • Other signs. These could include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, paleness or lightheadedness.Overlooking the signs of a heart attack is more common among women. While chest pain with discomfort is the most common symptom of a heart attack, in many cases women don’t feel pain and pressure in their chest. As a result, their symptoms may not appear to be as severe as when men have heart attacks, and they may downplay their symptoms or don’t recognize them as signs of a heart attack. Some of the common signs for women include:
  • Pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
  • Upper back pressure
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

Because these aren’t classic heart attack symptoms, women may not recognize just how serious their condition is until the symptoms become more severe. By then, more heart damage has occurred and they may have waited too long to seek medical assistance to survive the attack.

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Aiden was prenatally diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) almost four years ago. Read about his story from our friends at Texas Children's Hospital: @TexasChildrens #HLHS