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How do I know if I am having a heart attack?

To know if your symptoms signal a heart attack, get into the habit of noting your typical aches and pains and your normal reactions to foods and activities so you can recognize when something is truly amiss. If you have heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, a smoking habit or a sedentary lifestyle, be especially careful about monitoring how you feel. Alert your doctor if you experience unusual fatigue, changes in your sleep habits or other subtle heart attack symptoms.

You could be having a heart attack if you have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Chest discomfort. Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, pain, squeezing or fullness.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body—your arms, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Other signs—breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

You’ll know you’re having a heart attack by traditional signs like crushing chest pain that radiates to the left arm and neck and shortness of breath. But there is a whole world of atypical heart symptoms, particularly in diabetics. A diabetic’s only symptom might be shortness of breath or fatigue. Women may have atypical symptoms like back pain, arm pain, upper abdominal pain and bloating.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.