A Guide to Recognizing the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

If you have ever had chest pain, have been told that you have coronary heart disease, or are at an increased risk of developing heart disease, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of a heart attack. Most people don’t realize they are having a heart attack until they collapse or the event has passed, and that’s why it’s crucial to recognize the signs before it’s too late!

Chest Pain

The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort. This can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in one area. It may feel like indigestion, heartburn or just uncomfortable pressure. The discomfort can last for hours or it can come and go. You may also have shortness of breath and nausea. If you have any chest pain or other symptoms, call 911 immediately if you think it’s a heart attack!

Discomfort in Other Areas

The majority of heart attacks happen at night, so keep an eye out for pain in areas other than your chest—back, shoulder or arm—or any feeling that something isn’t right. Though these symptoms can also be attributed to anything from indigestion to dehydration, it’s always better safe than sorry. If you feel anything is off, head straight for urgent care. Your health is worth it!

Shortness of Breath

When you’re experiencing cardiac chest pain, shortness of breath is one of your body’s methods for alerting you that something is wrong. When we breathe, air enters through our nose or mouth and travels down through our trachea and into our lungs. The oxygen-rich air then exits out of our nose or mouth as we exhale.

Weakness, Numbness, or Tingling

The American Heart Association says that numbness or tingling in your jaw, arms, neck, or chest—even if it only lasts for a few seconds—could be signs of an impending heart attack. If you experience any weakness or numbness that radiates down one arm or across your chest and back, get yourself to an emergency room as soon as possible.

Fainting or Unusual Fatigue

Any time you feel faint or experience unusual fatigue, it could be a sign that your heart is in trouble. This can include feeling dizzy during routine tasks such as walking up stairs or upon standing. If you experience these symptoms, get yourself to an emergency room immediately. These are some serious signs you’re having a heart attack: unusual fatigue, fainting and/or pain in your chest.


Before you freak out, know that palpitations—which are caused by an irregular or extra heartbeat—are completely harmless most of the time. However, palpitations can be an early warning sign for something serious like heart disease or hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone). If you notice your heart beating rapidly, pounding in your chest, fluttering fast or slow, skipping beats, then you should talk to your doctor.

Sweating or Cold/Clammy Skin

The sweating or clammy skin is one of those symptoms that might seem like an insignificant thing, but can actually be extremely problematic if you’re trying to communicate your symptoms in time. Cold, clammy skin doesn’t always have anything to do with a heart attack—but it’s worth paying attention to in case it does. Keep an eye out for cold hands and feet too; these are both signs that something is wrong, even if they aren’t heart-attack related.

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