1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Common Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack


Updated August 13, 2009

Heart attack symptoms typically follow a classic pattern. The list below includes several common signs and symptoms of heart attacks. The victim does not need to have every item on the list in order to be having a heart attack, but if two or more of the items are present then it is important to call 911 immediately.

Readers who've experienced a heart attack before know those classic symptoms don't always happen -- or they don't always feel the way we expect them to. Heart attacks in women look very different than heart attacks in men. If you've had a heart attack, let us know how it felt. Tell your story below.

The classic symptoms are:

  • Chest pain
  • Pressure, heaviness or tightness in the chest
  • Pain or pressure in the neck or jaw
  • Pain or pressure in one or both arms (especially the left)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Pain or throbbing between the shoulder blades

If You Suspect You're Having a Heart Attack

If you suspect a heart attack, do not make an appointment to see the doctor. A private physician will probably not have the tools necessary to treat a heart attack. Instead, call 911 immediately!

If you have chest pain, always go to the ER or call 911.

While waiting for the ambulance:

  • Sit down and rest. The more exercise or stress you put on the heart, the more damage the heart attack will do. Sit and rest ut on the heart, the more damage the heart attack will do. Sit and rest until thl the ambulance arrives.

  • Have someone gather your medications. If there is someone with you, have them gather your medications or an updated list. It's a good idea to have personal medical information available at all times for the ambulance crew.

  • Take your nitroglycerin. If you have a prescription for nitroglycerin, this is why you have it. Take it as directed by your physician. Usually, you put a tablet under your tongue and let it dissolve. Do not take another person's nitroglycerin. Nitroglycerin can make some people's blood pressure drop dangerously low.

    WARNING: Taking nitroglycerin within 36 hours of taking Viagra®, Cialis®, or Levitra® (drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction) may cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. Do not take nitroglycerine within 36 hours of taking erectile dysfunction drugs unless directed by a physician.

There are many medical conditions in which calling the doctor is not always the best option. Often, it's better to skip the doctor and call 911 instead. Here are some other medical complaints that tell you when to call 911.
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. First Aid
  4. Heart Attacks
  5. Symptoms of a Heart Attack

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.