Heart Attack

Heart Attack Symptoms

A myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, occurs when the flow of blood to the heart muscle is restricted or stopped. The longer it takes to restore the blood flow to the heart, the greater the damage. The most common cause of a heart attack is the buildup of plaque in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This is also known as coronary artery disease. A less common cause of a heart attack is a sudden contraction of a coronary artery. The major symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. The pain can feel like a squeezing sensation, pressure, fullness or pain.
  • Feeling faint or light-headed.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulders.
  • Unexplained tiredness, nausea or vomiting (more common in women).


Below are the symptoms most common to women, according to the American Heart Association®:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please call 911 immediately.

It’s important to note that note everyone experiences the same severity of symptoms. Some people may experience recurrent chest pain (angina) or hours or days in advance, while others may experience no pain at all. 

You may also hear the terms STEMI or NSTEMI. The basic difference between the two is a STEMI heart attack occurs when a coronary is completely blocked and the heart muscle receives little to no blood. This type of heart attack requires immediate medical attention. A NSTEMI heart attack is a less serious form of a heart attack where the coronary arteries are partially blocked. 


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