Heart attack symptoms: Know what's a medical emergency

Whether the symptoms seem obvious or are more subtle, take them seriously and get immediate medical care.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A heart attack usually causes chest pain for more than 15 minutes. The chest pain may be mild or severe. Some people don't have any chest pain or pressure.

Heart attack symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain. It may feel like pressure, tightness, pain, squeezing or aching. The chest pain may come and go.
  • Upper body pain. Pain or discomfort spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, teeth or sometimes the upper belly. Some people have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath. You may gasp for breath or try to take in deep breaths.
  • Anxiety. You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you're having a panic attack.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness. You may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.
  • Sweating. You may suddenly break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
  • Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or throw up.
  • Heartburn or indigestion. Some people who are having a heart attack may feel like they have heartburn or an upset stomach.

Women tend to have more-vague heart attack symptoms, such as nausea or a brief or sharp pain felt in the neck, arm or back.

Older adults and people with diabetes may have no or very mild symptoms of a heart attack. Never ignore heart attack symptoms, even if they don't seem serious.

Get help immediately

Heart attack symptoms can vary widely. For instance, you may have only mild chest discomfort while someone else has severe chest pain.

If you think that you're having a heart attack, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only if there are absolutely no other options.

Symptoms may not be dramatic

Movies and TV often portray heart attacks as dramatic, chest-clutching events. But heart attacks may begin with subtle symptoms. The chest discomfort may not even be described as pain.

Many people have warning symptoms that happen hours, days or weeks in advance. For example, chest pain or pressure that keeps happening and doesn't go away with rest may be an early warning sign of a heart attack.

Never ignore heart attack symptoms, even if they don't seem serious.

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May 15, 2024

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  3. Anxiety disorders
  4. Blood tests for heart disease
  5. Calcium supplements: A risk factor for heart attack?
  6. Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?
  7. Cardiac catheterization
  8. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): First aid
  9. Chelation therapy for heart disease: Does it work?
  10. Chest X-rays
  11. Coronary angiogram
  12. Coronary artery bypass surgery
  13. Coronary artery disease
  14. Coronary artery disease: Angioplasty or bypass surgery?
  15. What is coronary artery disease? A Mayo Clinic cardiologist explains.
  16. Coronary artery disease FAQs
  17. Daily aspirin therapy
  18. Dizziness
  19. Drug-eluting stents
  20. Echocardiogram
  21. Ejection fraction: What does it measure?
  22. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  23. Excessive sweating
  24. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
  25. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health?
  26. Fatigue
  27. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  28. Flu shots and heart disease
  29. Four Steps to Heart Health
  30. Grass-fed beef
  31. Healthy Heart for Life!
  32. Heart and Blood Health
  33. Heart attack
  34. Heart attack
  35. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  36. Heart Attack Timing
  37. Heart disease
  38. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors
  39. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
  40. Heartburn or chest pain?
  41. Interval Training
  42. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  43. Nausea and vomiting
  44. Niacin to improve cholesterol numbers
  45. NSAIDs: Do they increase my risk of heart attack and stroke?
  46. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  47. Omega-3 in fish
  48. Omega-6 fatty acids
  49. Polypill: Does it treat heart disease?
  50. Pseudoaneurysm: What causes it?
  51. Red wine, antioxidants and resveratrol
  52. Shortness of breath
  53. Silent heart attack
  54. Sleep disorders
  55. Heart disease prevention
  56. Stress test
  57. Symptom Checker
  58. Integrative approaches to treating pain
  59. Nutrition and pain
  60. Pain rehabilitation
  61. Self-care approaches to treating pain
  62. Video: Heart and circulatory system