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Quick GuideA Visual Guide to Heart Disease
What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
Although chest pain or pressure is the most common symptom of a heart attack, heart attack victims may experience a variety of symptoms including:
- Pain, fullness, and/or squeezing sensation of the chest
- Jaw pain, toothache, headache
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or general epigastric (upper middle abdomen) discomfort
- Heartburn and/or indigestion
- Arm pain (more commonly the left arm, but may be either arm)
- Upper back pain
- General malaise (vague feeling of illness)
- No symptoms (Approximately one quarter of all heart attacks are silent, without chest pain or new symptoms. Silent heart attacks are especially common among patients with diabetes mellitus.)
Even though the symptoms of a heart attack at times can be vague and mild, it is important to remember that heart attacks producing no symptoms or only mild symptoms can be just as serious and life-threatening as heart attacks that cause severe chest pain. Too often patients attribute heart attack symptoms to "indigestion," "fatigue," or "stress," and consequently delay seeking prompt medical attention. One cannot overemphasize the importance of seeking prompt medical attention in the presence of new symptoms that suggest a heart attack. Early diagnosis and treatment saves lives, and delays in reaching medical assistance can be fatal. A delay in treatment can lead to permanently reduced function of the heart due to more extensive damage to the heart muscle. Death also may occur as a result of the sudden onset of arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation.