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If You Feel This, You May Be Having a Heart Attack

Signs of a heart attack, according to experts.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Heart attacks can be extremely dangerous, so if in doubt, get help immediately. "A heart attack is a serious medical emergency and calling 911 is the fastest way to get life-saving treatment," says cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD. "This is because the emergency medical service workers can begin interventions immediately when they arrive and on the way to the hospital." Here are five symptoms of heart attack, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Chest Tightness

Businesswoman coughing while having coffee break in the office.

Feeling pressure on your chest could be a sign of heart attack—and it doesn't necessarily have to be very painful to be serious (so don't ignore it!). "People don't always use the word pain when describing their heart attack symptoms," says Dr. Ron Blankstein, cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital and professor of medicine and radiology at Harvard Medical School.


Trouble Breathing

Young woman suffering from breathing problem near window indoors.

"It's easy to ignore breathlessness as a sign that we're simply getting old or unfit," says Peter Leslie Weissberg, CBE, FRCP, FMedSci. "When you do moderate-intensity exercise like cycling or brisk walking, it's normal to breathe a bit harder – although you should still be able to speak. But feeling out of breath while doing everyday activities, especially if you haven't experienced this before, could be a sign of a potentially serious heart condition. Common, treatable heart conditions such as coronary heart disease (the cause of heart attacks), heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation can all cause breathlessness."

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If you have constant nausea and indigestion, talk to your healthcare provider. "Indigestion, nausea, and vomiting can be symptoms of many conditions, but it is important not to dismiss them, as they can be a warning sign of a life-threatening heart attack," warns the Australian Heart Foundation. "The best way to be sure if what you're experiencing is critical is to seek urgent help. Medical tests can diagnose the cause of your symptoms, and if it is a heart attack, the earlier you get help, the better."

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Unexplained dizziness could be a warning of heart attack, doctors say. "This could be a sign of an arrhythmia, or of a heart valve condition," says cardiologist Lawrence Phillips, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and medical director of outpatient clinical cardiology at NYU Langone. "It's important to get an EKG to look for an irregular heart rhythm and make sure there is no major problem."


Beware Of the "Silent" Heart Attack

Stressed unhappy woman touching forehead, suffering from strong headache or chronic migraine

Did you know it's possible to have a heart attack and not know it? Commons signs of a 'silent' heart attack are unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath, and throat, neck, and jaw discomfort. "While atypical heart attack symptoms are most common among women and people with diabetes, they can happen to anyone," says cardiologist Curtis Rimmerman, MD. "People who experience a heart attack without recognizing it and who survive are very fortunate. If you experience sustained discomfort for a period of a few minutes, especially if the symptoms are new and have no clear explanation, do not ignore these concerns. If it turns out to be heartburn, at least you have excluded something less threatening. Don't let uncertainty lead to regret later on for you and your family."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan