A heart attack happens when the heart does not get enough blood flow. During a heart attack, heart muscle can be permanently damaged. Many people think a heart attack is sudden, like a “movie” heart attack, where someone clutches her chest and falls over.
But the truth is that many heart attacks start slowly as mild pain or discomfort. These feelings may even come and go. For both women and men, the most common sign of a heart attack is pain or discomfort in the center of the chest. The pain or discomfort can be mild or strong. The discomfort may be constant or it may come and go over several minutes.
For women, though, chest pain may not be the first sign that your heart is in trouble. Before a heart attack, women have reported unusual tiredness, trouble sleeping, heartburn, a cough, heart flutters, or loss of appetite.
These are symptoms that could mean a heart attack is happening:
• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
• Shortness of breath. This may occur with or without chest discomfort.
• Other signs. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
Get help right away
If you have signs of a heart attack or stroke, call 911. Call right away — in 5 minutes or less.