Recognizing Five Critical Signs of a Heart Attack


A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is restricted or cut off. In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 43 seconds. That statistic is sobering. It’s a good reminder of why it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of a heart attack. And now is a good time to review those signs, since February is American Heart Month.

Chest pain is the most common sign for both men and women. But there are other signs, some of which are more subtle and some of which differ for men and women. Signs of a heart attack include:

  1. Pain in your chest (often the center) or upper abdomen, or pain that travels to your arm, shoulder, neck, back, or jaw
  2. Tightness, squeezing, or pressure in your chest
  3. Trouble breathing
  4. Feeling sick to your stomach
  5. Sudden weakness, unusual fatigue, cold sweats, and/or dizziness

Women are more likely than men to feel some of these signs. They are more likely to have an upset stomach. They may also feel tired, weak, and dizzy. And they are more likely to feel pain in the neck, jaw, or back.

What should you do if you have any of these heart attack symptoms? Don’t wait. Take action right away. Call emergency assistance (911). Every minute you wait can cause death or severe damage to your heart.

You can also take steps to help prevent a heart attack. That starts by adopting healthy habits that can reduce your risk of heart disease:

  • Control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
  • Limit foods that are high in added sugar, salt, cholesterol, and trans fats.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular physical activity and exercise.
  • Don’t use tobacco products.
  • Deal with stress in healthy ways.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. But you can take steps to care for your heart.