With the word "attack" in the phrase, most people think heart attacks grab hold suddenly, felling them with little warning. Not so. Many heart attacks come on gradually, without intense pain and sometimes with symptoms that come and go. The signs of a heart attack can be confusing enough that people don't suspect a heart problem. This is true even for those who have had a heart attack before, because the symptoms can vary from one attack to another.
Chest Pain and Discomfort
Pain in the center of the chest is a classic heart attack symptom. The pain might be intense or mild. It could feel like squeezing. The pain might be left of center instead. Not all heart attacks cause clear-cut chest pain. Sometimes instead of pain, there is rather a feeling of fullness or pressure. These feelings will last more than a few minutes.
Shortness of breath can accompany chest pain.
Shoulder and Arm Pain
Lots of people know about left arm pain as a symptom of heart attack, but few know that the pain flows into the arm from the chest.
Pain flowing from the chest to the upper abdomen can be a sign of a heart attack. Instead, the pain might be in the middle of the torso. Nausea and indigestion can occur.
Jaw or Neck Pain
Pain in the jaw, teeth and/or neck can be a symptom of heart attack. Like arm pain, the pain starts in the chest.
Dizziness and Fainting, Weakness
Becoming light-headed or faint, accompanied by chest discomfort, can be a sign of a heart attack. You might instead experience a feeling of sudden weakness.
Cold, Sweaty Skin
If you have cold, clammy skin, perhaps accompanied by anxiety and nervousness, you may be having a heart attack.
Feelings of Doom or Malaise
Some people having a heart attack experience the feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Some people just feel "off," maybe as if they are coming down with something.
Changes in Heart Rhythm
An increased heart rate or an irregular heartbeat might be signs of a heart attack.
People having a heart attack might have skin that turns pale.