Skip to Main Content

Heart Attack Warning Signs

While a heart attack is a frightening event, you need to learn the signs of a heart attack and what steps to take. The life you save could be your own!

Many people think a heart attack is sudden and intense, like a "movie" heart attack, where a person clutches his or her chest and falls over.

The truth is that many heart attacks start slowly, as a mild pain or discomfort. If you feel such a symptom, you may not be sure what's wrong. Your symptoms may even come and go.

Even those who have had a heart attack may not recognize their symptoms since the next heart attack can have different symptoms. Women may not think they are at risk of a heart attack - but they are.

You are at higher risk of heart disease if you are: 

  • A woman age 55 or older
  • A man age 45 or older
  • Or a person with a family history of early heart disease 

The warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms may include:
    • Breaking out in a cold sweat
    • Nausea
    • Light-headedness

Learn the signs...but also remember:
Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, you should still have it checked out. Fast action can save lives...maybe your own.

Signs of a Heart Attack for Women 

The most common warning sign of a heart attack in both men and women is chest discomfort –usually in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Although both men and women can experience atypical symptoms of a heart attack, 70 percent of women have had heart attacks without any chest pain at all. Listen to your body. Trust your instincts. 

Women can experience atypical symptoms such as: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Back or jaw pain
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Throat discomfort
  • Burping or feeling of indigestion
  • 71% of women report flu-like symptoms for two to four weeks prior to having more acute chest discomfort 

If you suspect a heart attack: 

  • Call 9-1-1 and say “I am having a heart attack”. 
  • Chew an uncoated aspirin right away as this can reduce damage to the heart muscle.
  • Go to the nearest medical facility with 24-hour emergency cardiac care or a
    Chest Pain Center like Northridge Hospital Medical Center. Don't drive yourself. 
  • Get treatment quickly. Clot busting medicine and coronary angioplasty work best if provided after the first signs of distress.That is why it is important to call 9-1-1 immediately so treatment can start as soon as possible.

Learn More About Heart Care At Northridge Hospital Medical Center

For more information about the Cardiovascular Center, please call (818) 885-8500. To find a physician, please call (818) 908-8677 or use our search tool to Find a Doctor