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If You Feel This, It Could Be a Heart Attack, Says CDC

Your heart muscle may not be getting enough blood. Here’s how to tell.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

It's a fear we all have: dropping dead of a heart attack. Knowing the warning signs can help save your life. That's why understanding what the CDC identifies as the key symptoms is so essential. "A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, happens when a part of the heart muscle doesn't get enough blood," explains the agency. "The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle." Read on for the key signs you're having a heart attack—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these 19 Ways You're Ruining Your Body. 


You May Have Chest Pain or Discomfort

Woman in grey clothes is holding hands on her chest.

"Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back," says the CDC. "The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain."


You Might Feel Weak, Light-Headed, or Faint

Young woman, blond hair, fainted in bed.

"You may also break out into a cold sweat," says the CDC. You may also feel sudden fatigue, like "you are suddenly worn out after your typical exercise routine," says the Cleveland Clinic, or if "You aren't exerting yourself, but have fatigue or a 'heavy' chest" or "simple activity like making the bed, walking to the bathroom or shopping makes you excessively tired."

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You Might Feel Pain or Discomfort in the Jaw, Neck, or Back

Woman Suffering From Terrible Strong Teeth Pain

"As intricate as our body's systems are, they are very adept at giving signals when there is something wrong. When there is a problem with the heart, it triggers nerves in that area, but you sometimes feel pain elsewhere," reports the Cleveland Clinic. "Pain in the jaw, back or arms may signal a heart condition, especially if the origin is hard to pinpoint (for example there is no specific muscle or joint that aches). Also, if the discomfort begins or worsens when you are exerting yourself, and then stops when you quit exercising, you should get it checked out."

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You Might Feel Pain or Discomfort in One or Both Arms or Shoulders

A man experiencing discomfort in his upper arm

Honor Health lays out how your pain might hit your arms:

"For men: Pain will spread to the left shoulder, down the left arm or up to the chin. For women: Pain can be much more subtle. It may travel to the left or right arm, up to the chin, shoulder blades and upper back — or to abdomen (as nausea and/or indigestion and anxiety)."

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You Might Have Shortness of Breath

"This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort," says the CDC. "Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms." If you feel any of these symptoms, contact a medical professional immediately, and to get through life at your healthiest, Don't Take This Supplement, Which Can Raise Your Cancer Risk.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more
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