What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Vishva Dev, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If you feel sudden, unrelenting discomfort in the upper half of the body, you may be experiencing a heart attack, says Vishva Dev, MD, from Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center. Watch this video to learn the other symptoms.
Ankit D. Parikh, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
In this video, cardiologist Ankit Parikh, MD from St. Petersburg General Hospital discusses the variety of symptoms, in addition to chest pain, that may occur during a heart attack.
Reza K. Omarzai, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The symptoms of a heart attack can include chest pain, shortness of breath or fainting, says Reza Omarzai, MD, from John Randolph Medical Center. Learn more in this video.
Scott A. Scherr, MD
Emergency Medicine
Chest pain that's dull, squeezing or crushing should send you to the ER, says Scott Scherr, MD, from Sunrise Hospital. Learn what other symptoms might merit a visit - and how it differs for men and women - in this short video.
Kenneth H. Zelnick, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Kenneth Zelnick, MD, of Westside Regional Medical Center explains the many signs and symptoms of heart attack, and what you should do if you experience any of these signs. 
Common symptoms of heart attack include chest pain or discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes and doesn’t go away with rest. There may be upper body discomfort, and shortness of breath. Other possible symptoms of a heart attack include breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling unusually tired for no reason, nausea (sick to your stomach) and vomiting, and light-headedness or sudden dizziness.

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate treatment. Call 9-1-1 or have someone drive you to the emergency room to get checked out immediately. Do not wait to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

This content originally appeared online in "The Patient Guide to Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery" from the Society of Thoracic Surgery.
William D. Yarbrough, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Cardiac patients often complain about feeling chest pressure. In this video cardiologist Bill Yarbrough, MD, of Trident Medical Center explains what symptoms to watch for and when to get help if you are experiencing heart attack symptoms.
Jeremy G. Enslein, DO
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The most common symptoms of a heart attack include chest discomfort (often described as pressure, although chest pain can have different qualities); neck, jaw or back pain; nausea; shortness of breath; sweating episodes and dizziness. Many people, however, do not have typical symptoms with a heart attack. Some people exhibit no symptoms at all, in what is called a silent myocardial infarction. This is more common in people with diabetes and in women.
Ricky P. Ganim, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain that radiates to the arm (but can also radiate to the jaw or back), nausea, diaphoresis (sweats) and indigestion.
Rakesh K. Shah, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
One of the most common symptoms of heart attack is described as chest pain or indigestion, but that pain can also present as upper back pain, jaw pain, or arm pain. The second most common symptom you may experience is shortness of breath, which can be at rest as well as with exertion. The third most common symptom is cold, clammy sweatiness, which can be associated with anxiety, nausea and vomiting. The fourth common symptom is fatigue.

Some of these symptoms can be attributed to other conditions. Feeling extreme tiredness it is at times overlooked or attributed to deconditioning or “age related” by many people, but it could be an indication that the body is oxygen-deprived. Dizziness and palpitations can be attributed to an anxiety attack, but “racing beats” could signal of stress on the heart, which if ignored because of lack of chest pain, can lead to heart damage. Flu-like symptoms can also disguise a heart attack.
Marty Denny, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
One big symptom of a heart attack is chest pressure or pain, says Marty Denny, MD, from Frankfort Regional Medical Center. Learn about additional symptoms associated with that pain by watching this video.
Alvin S. Haynes Jr., MD
Internal Medicine
Alvin Haynes, MD, of Regional Medical Center of San Jose calls a heart attack the great masquerader. Watch this video to learn the sometimes suprising symptoms of a heart attack.
Farhad Rafii, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Symptoms like clenched fists, pressure on the chest and feeling short of breath are only seen in about 50% of patients. Signs of a heart attack in women, patients with diabetes and the elderly can be different from what is commonly understood. Many times, a heart attack is presented with sensation of heaviness in chest without pain, sudden onset of difficulty breathing and lightheadedness, as well as a vague fatigue and abdominal discomfort, especially in older individuals. Pain in the left arm and/or jaw, feelings of heartburn or what people may perceive as heartburn may also be symptoms. Remember, it’s better to be wrong and seek immediate medical attention than to try to risk missing a true heart attack event.
Jason S. Sperling, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Symptoms of a heart attack can vary by individual, particularly in people with diabetes. In this video, I will describe uncommon symptoms of heart attack. 
Mary A. McLaughlin, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Symptoms that may appear in both men and women include experiencing:
  • Chest pressure (fullness of chest, squeezing of chest, pain in center of chest)
  • Pain that spreads to the inner side of the left arm
  • Pain that radiates to the jaw, upper back or neck
  • Pain in the upper part of the stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
If you believe you or a loved one is having a heart attack, stroke or other serious health problem, please call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency department immediately. Time is muscle; the faster you get to the ED, the less potential heart damage.
Denise M. Dietz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Common heart attack signs and symptoms include the following: 
  • chest pressure, tightness, pain or a squeezing or aching that may radiate to the arms, neck, jaw or back
  • nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
  • shortness of breath
  • cold sweat
  • fatigue
  • lightheadedness or sudden dizziness 
Heart attack symptoms vary. Not all people who have heart attacks have the same symptoms or have the same severity of symptoms. Some patients, particularly diabetics, may have no symptoms at all.
Charles W. Phillips, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Classic symptoms of a heart attack/myocardial infarction, are an uncomfortable sensation of aching or pressure in the central chest or the epigastrium. This sensation may radiate into the base of the neck, jaws, and one or both arms. Sensation may be felt between the shoulder blades in the back. One may also feel apprehensive and short of breath, along with feeling sweaty and nauseated. Palpitations may occur as well. Obviously, not all patients experience this classic presentation. For some, sudden unexplained nausea and shortness of breath may be the only symptoms. Diabetic patients are somewhat notorious for having atypical symptoms, such as short of breath only.
Clifford V. Morris, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The symptoms of a heart attack sometimes can be different for a man compared to a woman. The most common symptoms include chest pain, fullness, or a squeezing sensation of the chest that comes and goes. There could be associated jaw and tooth pain, headache or shortness of breath. During the pain, the patient may sometime experience nausea or vomiting with profuse sweating. Isolated episodes of sweating or nausea should not be confused with heart attack pain. Women can experience the main symptoms noted above, however they are more likely to perhaps have just the associated symptoms as a main indicator such as shortness of breath, jaw or tooth pain, or even back pain. 
Chetan A. Patel, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The classic symptom associated with a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. The chest pain is often described as a pressure or tightness (“ton of bricks on my chest” or “elephant sitting on my chest”) but the pain can be of any type. It is important to remember that not all patients experience chest pain when having a heart attack. They may present with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, indigestion/heartburn, nausea, diaphoresis (sweating), left arm pain, back pain, or neck/lower jaw pain.

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Penn Medicine
Recognizing the symptoms of heart attack in women may not always be as clear-cut as it is for men. The most prominent symptoms that are sure signs of trouble that women should keep an eye out for are:
  • Pressure, tightness, fullness and discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that comes and goes in waves
  • Pain or pressure that spreads to the shoulders, between the shoulder blades, neck, upper back, jaw, or arms
  • Jaw or throat pain
  • Crushing chest pain
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and/or dizziness
  • Cold sweat, paleness
  • Overwhelming fatigue or weakness
  • Abdominal pain
Women often mistakenly think only severe chest pain is a symptom of a heart attack and delay seeking medical care. I’ve heard many patients who feel that doctors either didn’t take them or their symptoms seriously. Be persistent. You know your body and when you aren’t feeling well. Seek the medical attention you need and deserve.
The most important thing to do if you think you are having heart attack symptoms is to call 911 and tell them you are experiencing heart attack symptoms.
Most common symptoms for men and women are:
  • Discomfort, tightness, uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or comes and goes
  • Crushing chest pain
  • Pressure or pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, upper back, jaw, or arms
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Clammy sweats, heart flutters, or paleness
  • Unexplained feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness -- especially with exertion
  • Stomach or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Intermountain Healthcare
The symptoms of a heart attack are like those of angina (discomfort, pain, or tightness in the chest, arm, shoulder, back, neck, or jaw caused by a temporary lack of oxygen to the heart muscle), but the pain of a heart attack is usually more severe and prolonged.

During a heart attack, you may also have one or more other symptoms. These include nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, light-headedness or dizziness, sweating, and discomfort in your arms, neck, jaw, or stomach. The symptoms of a heart attack can come on suddenly or can build over several hours.
Howard E. Lewine, MD
The classic symptoms of a heart attack are:
  • Chest pain – a squeezing steady pain in the middle of the chest
  • Pain in the left arm and hand
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
Although these are the classic symptoms, today most people have only one or two of these symptoms. Sometimes people have very different symptoms, such as:
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Neck and jaw pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness, or a feeling like you might pass out
Men are more likely to experience the classic symptoms of a heart attack. This is less true for women.
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Alvaro Montoya, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
For people having a heart attack, quick treatment can mean the difference between life and death. If you are or someone you’re with is having the following symptoms, call 911 because it could be a heart attack:
  • Chest discomfort that feels like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or fullness and lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and returns.
  • Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, the back, the neck, the jaw or the stomach.
  • A cold sweat, shortness of breath, nausea or light-headedness.
  • Women often experience other symptoms besides chest pain, including shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
It is important to know and recognize the various symptoms of a heart attack. You must keep in mind that not all heart attacks cause chest pain; sometimes symptoms can be subtler, such as upper body discomfort or sudden nausea or fatigue. When heart attack symptoms strike, any delay in seeking treatment can result in heart muscle damage and/or death.
Heart attack symptoms may not be sudden or dramatic like in the movies, so don't wait until symptoms are severe or unbearable. The warning signs of a heart attack are:
  • discomfort that spreads from the chest to the shoulders, neck and arms
  • pressure or squeezing pain in the chest that may spread into the neck, shoulders and arms
  • nausea, breathlessness, sweating or fainting with pain in the arms, chest or neck
  • feelings of impending doom
  • significant fatigue
  • indigestion
  • weakness in the arms
If you have heart disease, you should know the symptoms of a heart attack so you can get immediate medical help if symptoms occur. Not all heart attacks begin with sudden, crushing chest pain, especially for women, for whom heart attack symptoms often are milder and less specific.
If you, or someone you love, experience one or more of the following heart attack symptoms, call 911 immediately:
  • Chest discomfort, particularly in the center of the chest. It may feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Discomfort can last for more than a few minutes, or it can come and go.
  • Unusual pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as the jaw, the neck, the back, the arms (one or both) and/or the stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, which can precede or be accompanied by chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms may include a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Most people are familiar with the classic description of a heart attack: crushing chest pressure; pain radiating to the neck, jaw, back, or arm; sweating and shortness of breath; sudden "indigestion" that isn't relieved by antacids. While some women do experience these classic symptoms, the warning signs of a heart attack may be significantly different in women than in men.

Symptoms of a heart attack in men include:
  • Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest
  • Pain or discomfort that radiates to the upper body, especially shoulders or arms and neck
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
Symptoms of a heart attack in women include:
  • Pressure, aching, or tightness in the center of the chest (although not as frequently as in men)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness; unusual fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Back or jaw pain
There are quite a few warning signs of a heart attack. The most common is chest pain, that is often described as "heaviness" or a "crushing" sensation under the breastbone. Another is pain shooting down the left arm or up to the jaw. A person might also feel out of breath, sweaty, and/or lightheaded. These are not the only signs of a heart attack, and they also may not be because of a heart attack. People with diabetes often experience symptoms that aren't usually associated with heart attacks. So, if you have serious concerns, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Become familiar with these warning signs of a heart attack:
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • pain or discomfort in your arms, back, jaw, neck, or stomach
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • indigestion or nausea
  • light-headedness
  • tiredness or fatigue
You may not experience all of these symptoms, and they may come and go. Chest pain that doesn't go away after resting may signal a heart attack. Diabetes can cause nerve damage that can make heart attacks painless or "silent." If you have warning signs of a heart attack, call 911.
Joan Haizlip, MSN
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The most common signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:
  • chest pain or discomfort (pressure, tightness, heaviness, squeezing)
  • shortness of breath
  • cold sweats, nausea and dizziness
  • pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw and shoulder
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
The most common signs of a heart attack are:
  • chest pain or discomfort (can feel like pressure, fullness, or squeezing)
  • discomfort in upper body (could be an arm, back, neck, jaw, or stomach)
  • shortness of breath
  • cold sweat
  • nausea
  • sudden extreme fatigue (without lack of sleep)
That said, half of all people who have had heart attacks never felt a symptom-or at least, never recognized it as a symptom. Many people want to ignore the discomfort that often comes and goes, and they even rationalize symptoms as heartburn or a muscle pull.

(For any chest pain, you should at least take an aspirin with a glass of water in case it is a heart attack-and call an ambulance if the pain persists or you have the other symptoms I mentioned.)

Part of the problem is that heart attacks happen in very different ways-and the discomfort can come and go, which makes it easier to blame it on something else, like digestive upsets.

The pain or discomfort can be unpredictable because the heart itself does not feel pain; it does not have specific pain fibers. The heart's nerves are not sensory nerves. But when something is going wrong with the heart, its nerves may become electrically unstable. And when they cross the spinal column, they may short-circuit other nerves-nerves that connect with your arm, for example, or your chest. And those nerves are the ones that transmit the pain impulses. So your arm aches, or your chest, or your jaw, wherever nerves are shorting out. The brain sometimes also joins the action by stimulating the vagus nerve to cause an upset stomach and a cold sweat.

So remember that half of folks who have heart attacks will not have classic symptoms like you see in the movies. This is especially confusing for women because many people mistakenly believe that men have heart attacks at a higher rate (in fact the numbers are nearly identical). Better to get checked out by a doctor if you are concerned.
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The most common signal of a heart attack is persistent pain, discomfort or pressure in the center of the chest that lasts longer than three to five minutes or goes away and comes back.

A person may describe it as squeezing, tightness, aching or heaviness.
Athletic trainers reponds to heart attack victim
It is important to realize your risk for heart disease and the symptoms of heart attack so that you can respond quickly.

Major symptoms of heart attack are:
  • Feeling pressure, fullness or pain in the center of the chest for more than a few minutes
  • Experiencing an uncomfortable feeling that moves into the neck, jaw, arms, or shoulder
  • Having trouble breathing
  • Feeling dizzy, sweaty, faint, or nauseous while experiencing an uncomfortable feeling in the chest
These are the major symptoms of heart attack but there are other less common symptoms you should discuss with your doctor, including:
  • Abdominal or mid-back pain
  • Indigestion
  • Extreme fatigue
In the event that you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 or an emergency medical professional for help -- even if the symptoms subside after a few minutes.
Imran K. Niazi, MD
Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology
Heart attack refers to a condition in which one or more of the coronary arteries (arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle) become blocked by a blood clot or cholesterol. This may occur at any time and has many different symptoms. Some patients feel discomfort in the pit of the stomach and put it down to indigestion. Others feel a pressure or heaviness in the chest ("like an elephant standing on my chest"). Frequently, the symptoms are accompanied by shortness of breath, weakness and anxiety, and, sometimes, patients break out into a cold sweat or feel faint. Discomfort in the chest moving to the jaw or arm is particularly worrisome since this is usually a sign of an impending or actual heart attack.

Surprisingly, about one in five people have no knowledge that they are having a heart attack. They may feel ill or weak for a while and put it down to the flu. We call this a "silent heart attack."

There are other conditions that mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. Spasm of the food tube muscle (esophageal spasm), caused by too much stomach acid, can result in similar discomfort, as can gall bladder disease or blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism). In general, it is best to seek medical help immediately when symptoms suggest a heart attack.
 Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine
A heart attack can be indicated by any or all of the following symptoms:
  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness or squeezing sensation in mid-chest, shoulder jaw or arms
  • Irregular heart rate (palpitations)
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Pale, ashen skin
  • Shortness breath
  • Anxiety, sense of impending doom
Eric Olsen
The classic symptoms of heart attack include pain anywhere from the head to the hips, not just the typical pain in the chest or left arm. But pain isn't the only symptom, and sometimes a heart attack can begin without pain at all. Shortness of breath, palpitations, sensations similar to gastric upset, the feeling of a heavy weight on the chest, and overwhelming fatigue can also indicate coronary insufficiency and impending trouble. These symptoms, alone or in combination, require immediate attention from a physician. Under no circumstances should you try to work through this pain.
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The most common first feeling or sign of coronary heart disease is discomfort in the chest. This can be a sensation of tightness, pressure, dull pain, squeezing, heaviness, aching, indigestion, burning or other discomfort or a combination of any of these. It can happen at rest or may only happen with some exertion such as walking, working, lifting, or after a large meal. This might even come on when you are not active, especially at night, and it may awaken you from sleep. Some notice these feelings first during sudden change in activity such as shoveling snow after the first snowstorm.
The chest pain or discomfort may move around and might be felt in a shoulder, arm, neck, jaw or back. 
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The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major symptoms of a heart attack:
  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This may occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat or experiencing nausea or light-headedness.
The presence of the CDC logo and CDC content on this page should not be construed to imply endorsement by the US Government of any commercial products or services, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. The mark “CDC” is licensed under authority of the PHS.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

The symptoms of a heart attack are:

  • Heavy feeling in the chest
  • Pain in jaw, arm, or upper back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Heat or Sweating
  • Indigestion/heartburn
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Anxiety

Watch the video to find out from Dr. Oz about all the symptoms of a heart attack and what you should do if you have them.



The symptoms of a heart attack differ somewhat from person to person and between men and women, but in general include:

  • Chest pain or chest discomfort
  • Pain in the neck, shoulder, back, arm or jaw
  • Pounding heart or change in rhythm
  • Heartburn, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Cold sweats and clammy skin
  • Dizziness

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Do not drive yourself to the hospital or wait for someone to take you.

Deb Cordes
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Men and women sometimes display different symptoms when having a heart attack. The most common heart attack symptoms are: chest pain, chest pressure described as vice-like or squeezing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, breaking out in a cold sweat and shortness of breath. Women often display symptoms of shortness of breath with or without chest pain, pain in one or both arms, jaw or back pain. If you have any of these symptoms that last more than 3-5 minutes you should seek immediate medical attention. You do not have to have all of these symptoms you may only have one or two.
Eastside Medical Center
Symptoms of a heart attack include jaw pain, neck pain, chest pain or pain in the stomach area. It may involve the arms and it may feel like a pain, discomfort or pressure. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or lightheadedness. Many patients will have sweating and generalized weakness. These are usually profound pains that continue to increase and do not go away when someone changes position or expels gas or "burps". If someone has these symptoms, they should go to the emergency room immediately. Nitroglycerin tablets underneath the tongue may help this pain, but if it comes back within five minutes the patient should take a second tablet and consider going to the emergency room for further evaluation.

Symptoms of a heart attack include a feeling of pressure, squeezing pain, or fullness in the middle of your chest region. This feeling may endure for several minutes. Other symptoms for men include pain radiating from the chest to the shoulder, arm, back, and jaw, having trouble breathing, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms of a heart attack manifest differently in women and may include fatigue, clammy skin, abdominal pain, heartburn, and lightheadedness. Although these are common symptoms of a heart attack, not everyone experiences the same symptoms.

Picture of heart attack symptoms
Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine
Classic heart attack symptoms are sudden tightness, squeezing, or pressure over the chest. The pain can radiate up the neck or jaw or down the left arm. Other symptoms called associated symptoms can also occur. These include sweating, nausea, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. Not all of these symptoms occur; sometimes, there is no actual chest pain, just the associated symptoms.

Sometimes, a blood vessel doesn't close off quickly-the process is gradual, with slow plaque buildup. Chest pain in this process is called anginait often occurs during exercise, when your heart demands more blood flow. It can also happen after having an emotional conversation or a big meal. A person will feel the same type of chest tightness or pressure as in a heart attack, but the chest pain will go away in a few minutes once the physical activity is stopped. Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack or angina is important because acting quickly can save your heart from permanent damage.

Continue Learning about Heart Attack

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.