A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can't get oxygen. If not treated quickly, the heart muscle fails to pump and begins to die. The most common heart attack symptom in men and women is chest pain or discomfort.
However, women also are somewhat more likely to have shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, unusual tiredness (sometimes for days), and pain in the back, shoulders, and jaw.
Many people aren't sure what's wrong when they are having symptoms of a heart attack.
If you think you might be having a heart attack (even if you're not sure), call 9–1–1 immediately. Don't wait!
Some of the most common warning symptoms of a heart attack for men and women are:
- Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest. The discomfort usually lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. It also can feel like heartburn or indigestion.
- Upper body discomfort. You may feel pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach (above the belly button).
- Shortness of breath. This may be your only symptom, or it may occur before or along with chest pain or discomfort. It can occur when you are resting or doing a little bit of physical activity.
Heart attacks don't always cause common symptoms. They can start slowly and cause only mild pain or discomfort. Symptoms can be mild or more intense and sudden. Symptoms also may come and go over several hours. Women who have high blood sugar (diabetes) may have no symptoms or very mild ones.
Any time you think you might be having heart attack symptoms or a heart attack, don't ignore it or feel embarrassed to call for help. Call 9–1–1 for emergency medical care, even if you are not sure whether you're having a heart attack.
Consider taking part in a research study (clinical trial) if you've had or are at risk for a heart attack. Research supported by NHLBI has uncovered some of the causes of heart diseases and conditions, as well as ways to prevent or treat them.