Return to Heart Page.
Recognizing Heart Attack Symptoms
If I’m having chest pain, should I wait before going to the ER?
No. Call 9-1-1 immediately. Heart attack is the leading cause of death in America today. It is common to deny symptoms or delay seeking treatment. The sooner you get to the Emergency Room, the better your chances -- not only of surviving -- but of lessening the damage done to the heart.
How do I know that my chest pain is a heart attack and not indigestion?
You should not try to diagnose your condition. But becoming informed of the signs and symptoms of heart attack will make you more aware should it occur. Many people who have a heart attack experience symptoms other than chest pain. Any one of these symptoms can be a sign of heart attack:
- chest pain behind the sternum (breastbone)
- pain may radiate to the:
- neck, teeth, or jaw
- arms, shoulder, or back
- pain is similar to angina, but not relieved by rest or nitroglycerin
- pain that may be described as:
- squeezing, aching, tightness, or pressure
- a tight band on the chest
- "an elephant sitting on my chest"
- "bad indigestion" or heartburn
- shortness of breath that occurs suddenly
- may or may not be accompanied by pain
- sweating, may be profuse
- nausea or vomiting
- light-headedness, dizziness, or fainting
- feeling of "impending doom"
Heart attacks may be associated with a wide range of symptoms, from subtle to intense. Women and elderly persons are more likely to experience subtle or atypical symptoms.