Bethesda Heart Hospital

Bethesda Heart Hospital

Heart Attack Warning Signs and Symptoms

At Bethesda Heart Hospital, we want to keep you and your loved ones informed of the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack. If you or someone you are with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the following signs, do not wait longer than a few minutes (no more than 5) before calling 9-1-1 or your emergency medical system for help.


Heart Attack Warning Signs & Symptoms

  • 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, heaviness 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 or difficulty breathing – May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Sudden unexpected fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Anxiety or Sense of Impending Doom
  • Disturbed Digestion
  • Cold Sweats
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

How do I know if a heart attack has occurred?

A doctor who has studied the results of several tests must diagnose a heart attack. The doctor will:

  • Review the patient's complete medical history
  • Give a physical examination
  • Use an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to discover any abnormalities caused by damage to the heart. An ECG is a medical device that makes a graphical record of the heart's electrical activity.
  • In some cases, the doctor will use a blood test to detect abnormal levels of certain enzymes in the bloodstream. Blood tests confirm (or refute) suspicions raised in the early stages of evaluation that may occur in an emergency room, intensive care unit or urgent care setting. These tests are sometimes called heart damage markers or cardiac enzymes.


If you think you're having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 or your emergency medical system immediately.