What Are the 5 Most Common Heart Attack Symptoms?

by | Heart Disease

In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Sometimes these individuals get the medical attention they need, and sometimes it takes their life.

Heart attack symptoms are some of the most difficult medical symptoms to pin down, especially if you’re female. Some patients report abdominal pain rather than chest pain, while others have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux.

Differentiating between a heart attack and other conditions can be difficult. Even doctors can have a hard time telling the difference between the symptoms.

If you’re curious about heart attack symptoms that you need to watch out for, keep reading.

1. Chest Discomfort

One of the hallmark symptoms of a heart attack is chest discomfort. However, it’s not all sharp, stabbing pain.

While some patients may experience that kind of pain, other patients report gassy pain or a feeling of acidity in their chest. Some patients feel a slight pressure in their chest that may mimic the feeling of anxiety or worry, while only some report a feeling of fullness and squeezing.

The chest pain may lie in the center of the chest or off to the right side of the chest where the heart lies. The pain may persist or come and go. When in doubt, call 911.

Since the kind of chest pain that’s associated with heart attack varies from person to person, you won’t know the kind of pain that affects you until you have one. If you are having a heart attack, you need to get immediate medical attention in order to prevent further damage to the heart.

If you have heart disease, you should be especially careful to watch out for signs of a heart attack. Individuals with existing heart problems like heart disease are at an increased risk for developing vascular issues that can lead to a heart attack.

2. Cold Sweats

Lightheadedness, cold sweats, nausea, and vomiting are the lesser-known symptoms of heart attacks. Although, they are still some of the most common ones.

Females are most likely to have these kinds of symptoms. However, some men report these symptoms as well. While these symptoms can happen at the same time as chest pain and other signs, they could also happen alone. However, it’s unlikely that a heart attack would spur from just nausea alone.

However, if you’re having persistent lightheadedness, nausea, or cold sweats, you should get medical attention. Even if it isn’t a heart attack, you could be having another problem like hypotension.

It’s better to be safe rather than sorry in these cases.

3. Radiating Jaw Pain

This is arguably one of the oddest heart attack symptoms. Because the pain in the chest can radiate into different areas of the body, the jaw can become involved.

The blood that’s in the blocked artery in the heart may back up to the spinal cord. There, it can merge with nerve pathways that lead to other areas of the body. One of the most common areas is the jaw. Thus, your body thinks that your jaw is in pain when it is actually your heart.

If you have persistent or recurrent jaw pain, you may need a cardiac checkup. Jaw pain is a subtle but serious cardiac symptom that you shouldn’t ignore.

4. Upper Body Discomfort

Along with your jaw, other areas of your body can become painful during a heart attack. These areas include your neck, back, abdomen, shoulders, and arms.

Just like with the jaw, this is likely because of adjacent nerve pathways in the spinal cord. The blood that’s being blocked in the heart has to go somewhere. So, it backs up to the nerve pathway and causes the brain to receive pain signals from other areas of the body.

If you’re having persistent or recurrent pain, don’t assume that it’s that area of the body that’s in distress. Many patients who are having a heart attack may think that they’re having muscle pain or stomach aches. Therefore, they ignore the pain or take pain killers to silence the symptoms.

When in doubt, get checked out. A quick trip to urgent care can help you determine whether this is a muscle ache or something more serious, things out of the ordinary shouldn’t be ignored. 

5. Shortness of Breath

The shortness of breath that’s associated with heart attacks may be sudden in onset. It may be persistent or recurrent and it worsens with physical exertion.

Some patients report that the shortness of breath feels like they got punched in the stomach or kicked in the chest. However, other patients only report mild shortness of breath that feels like anxiety. Shortness of breath may occur with or without chest discomfort/pain and it may or may not accompany other symptoms of a heart attack. Some patients only report shortness of breath while others report a myriad of symptoms.

If you’re experiencing shortness of breath, you could be developing heart disease, having a heart attack, or experiencing another serious medical condition. This is a symptom that you should never ignore since it’s linked to other serious conditions.

If you have shortness of breath chronically, you should look for changes in your condition. You may experience shortness of breath that lasts longer, becomes more exacerbated, or triggers more easily. Be sure to let your doctor know of any long-term changes.

If you experience short-term changes such as an immediate exacerbation, you should see a physician at urgent care or in the emergency room.

Getting Medical Attention for Your Heart Attack Symptoms

Heart attack symptoms can be hard to pin down. Some people have a higher tolerance for pain and other people don’t show the classic symptom of chest pain.

That’s why it’s extremely important for you to remember and share these heart attack symptoms. You or someone you know could be one of the patients who experience a non-traditional set of symptoms.

If you’re worried about your risk for heart disease or having a heart attack, you should schedule an appointment with our experts here at Greenwich Medical Associates. We can help you lower your risk and learn more about your current health condition. Give us a call today, don’t postpone getting your screening or checkup. Ensure your optimal heart health today.