Heart Attack Signs & Symptoms


A heart attack (or myocardial infarction) occurs when fats and other substances build up on the walls of the coronary arteries. This restricts the flow of blood to the heart, causing a heart attack.

While we may associate chest-clutching pain with heart attack, the reality is that symptoms vary widely, especially between men and women. Heart attack symptoms may be subtle, so it is important to recognize anything that is out of the ordinary for you.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Flu-like symptoms, including chills and cold sweats
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest discomfort: Pain, tightness or pressure in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and returns
  • Discomfort in one or both arms (especially the left)
  • Discomfort in your back, neck, jaw, teeth or between your shoulder blades
  • Heartburn, indigestion, or a stomachache
  • Extreme fatigue

Heart Attack Symptoms in Men

  • Crushing, squeezing, or burning pain
  • Pressure or fullness in the center of the chest that may radiate to the neck, one or both arms, the shoulders, or the jaw, with chest discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, chills, sweating or weak pulse
  • Cold and clammy skin, gray skin, or appearance of severe illness
  • Fainting (rare)

Remember: Time lost is heart muscle lost. If you experience any of these symptoms, or other sudden and unusual symptoms, seek immediate treatment. IF YOU SUSPECT YOU ARE HAVING A HEART ATTACK, CALL 911.

Take the Next Step

If you think you’re at risk for cardiovascular disease, take our online heart health assessment. Or to find a cardiology specialist near you, use our Find a Doctor tool.