Subtle heart attack signs you should never ignore

Heart Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Jan 6, 2020

Most people are familiar with the “classic” heart attack symptom — chest pain. But did you know it’s possible to have a heart attack without chest pain?

The symptoms of a heart attack aren’t always as obvious as you might expect. While heart attacks often do cause chest pain, some people may not experience any chest pain and others might experience only minor pain.

The silent heart attack

When a heart attack occurs without the person even knowing it, this is what is called a “silent heart attack,” or “silent ischemia” (lack of oxygen). Sometimes, the symptoms are recognizable but subtle, such as indigestion or excessive fatigue.

A heart attack usually occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood through a coronary artery — a vessel that feeds blood to your heart. Interrupted blood flow can damage or destroy a part of the heart muscle. In the event of a heart attack, rapid treatment is vital regardless of the exact symptoms.

Bottom line: not every heart attack looks the same. Know the common signs but listen to your body and if something doesn’t feel right, talk to your doctor or call 911.

Heart attack signs and symptoms

Common heart attack symptoms include:

  • Pressure, a feeling of fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of your chest that lasts for more than a few minutes
  • Pain extending beyond your chest to your shoulder, arm, back or even to your teeth and jaw
  • Increasing episodes of chest pain
  • Prolonged pain in the upper abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Impending sense of doom
  • Fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting

Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms without chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or “heartburn”
  • Sweating or clammy skin
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue

Did any of these symptoms surprise you? Do yourself and your loved ones a favor — share these signs and symptoms with them. You never know when this knowledge could save a life.

If you or someone around you is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

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