Published on February 06, 2012

Know the signs of heart attack

Heart attack symptoms may not be what you expect

heart stethoscopeA heart attack can be sudden and intense—something the American Heart Association refers to as the “movie heart attack” (like those acted out in movies)—or it can begin slowly, with mild chest discomfort or pressure.

Recent studies tell us that women, older adults and people with diabetes are more likely to experience heart attack symptoms other than chest discomfort, such as shortness of breath, nausea, back pain or jaw pain.

Because signs of heart attack can vary from person to person, you should always call your local emergency services if you experience any of these symptoms or unusual sensations in the chest that do not improve or that get worse within five minutes.

Emergency services personnel are trained to take these symptoms seriously. If there is no heart attack, the admitting hospital can direct the sufferer to the appropriate medical provider to help detect the cause of the symptoms.

Other common heart attack symptoms that may or may not occur along with chest discomfort include:

  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • A fast or irregular pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that spreads from the chest to the neck, the jaw, or one or both shoulders or arms
  • Dizziness or light-headedness

What’s Your Risk? Visit and click ‘Test Your Heart’ to learn more.