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Common Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

Acting fast at the first sign of heart attack symptoms can save your life and limit damage to your heart. Treatment is most effective when started within 1 hour of the beginning of symptoms.


The most common heart attack signs and symptoms are:

  • Chest discomfort or pain—uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest that can be mild or strong. This discomfort or pain lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath may occur with or before chest discomfort.
  • Other signs include nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting, lightheadedness or fainting, or breaking out in a cold sweat.

If you think you or someone you know may be having a heart attack:

  • Call 9–1–1 within a few minutes—5 at the most—of the start of symptoms.
  • If your symptoms stop completely in less than 5 minutes, still call your doctor.
  • Only take an ambulance to the hospital. Going in a private car can delay treatment.
  • Take a nitroglycerin pill if your doctor has prescribed this type of medicine.

Many more people could recover from heart attacks if they got help faster. Of the people who die from heart attacks, about half die within an hour of the first symptoms and before they reach the hospital which accounts for over 550,000 deaths in the United States.

Adapted from “What is a Heart Attack,” National Heart Lung and Blood Insitute

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