Heart attack - Symptoms

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The symptoms of heart attack can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?

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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
  • Sweating
  • 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.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: StillShocked, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 19

I had a heart attack last week. I am a 55 year young woman. I was awakened early in the morning with an extremely (so I thought) bad, painful case of indigestion. After no relief from antacids, I did consider calling 911, but delayed, afraid that it was, in fact, only gas, and I would be laughed out of the emergency room. I did finally call, when I started sweating profusely, and had to vomit. My point is, call for help, even if you"re not certain, please! I ended up having angioplasty with a 95% blockage.

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Comment from: mezzoola, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 27

I am a 48 year old female. In December of 2012 I experienced squeezing in my chest and left arm on two occasions the same day. These symptoms happened after a stressful event, not physical exertion. The first attack happened while I was relaxing with a friend eating lunch. I went to the emergency room (ER), they tested blood enzymes and they were slightly elevated. They told me those numbers could be my normal and dismissed my symptoms as gastric and sent me home. A week later I had a similar episode of what I now know to be angina, while going for a walk. I let it pass and didn"t do anything more until April, yes April! I was growing more and more uneasy and believe I was having such mild angina, 3 to 4 times a day but it was so mild as to be almost imperceptible. On April 7th, yes, 4 months later, I went for a purposeful walk to see if I could induce an angina attack, still not knowing what that was! I was able to do so although the symptoms were still milder than what I had experienced after a very stressful time in December. I went to the ER again. All tests were normal except the slightly elevated heart enzymes again. They still didn"t believe anything was wrong with me being female and low risk although my dad had double bypass at 59. I am ex-smoker, blood pressure normal-high but my cholesterol profile was better than normal. I"m thin, fit, eat well and they just didn"t believe it. They did an angiogram only because they had exhausted everything, every other test, because I was still having mild symptoms. They did not expect to find anything. I was not surprised in the least when they found a 95% blockage of my LAD (left anterior descending artery); yes, I was a walking time bomb. I did not have a heart attack, nor damage to my heart so I am very lucky; I have one stent. All of the medical experts looked at me in disbelief. So, a year out I am doing very well but am extremely paranoid and anxious about mild symptoms. I find exercise to be the best tonic. It"s hard to find the balance between listening to your body and paranoia but I"m working on it every day. Don"t ignore mild symptoms.

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