If you think you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack – DO NOT WAIT, CALL 911!

Symptoms may be obvious or more subtle, either way take them seriously and get medical care.

We tend to believe that a heart attack is a dramatic, chest-clutching event but heart attacks can begin with more subtle symptoms. People have described it as a “discomfort” but not painful.

Downplaying your symptoms or thinking it is just indigestion or anxiety can be deadly. Do not “tough it out” for more than five minutes. Call 911 immediately.

What is a Heart Attack?

A blockage most often is a build up of fat, cholesterol and other substances which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart. The buildup can block the flow of blood to the heart and a heart attack can occur.

Sometimes, a plaque can rupture and form a clot that blocks blood flow. The interrupted flow can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle.

Typical Heart Attack Symptoms

Alpine Cardiology Senior man having heart attack wife calling 911If you experience any of these heart attack warning signs do not wait to get help. Some heart attacks may be sudden and intense. But most will start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Call 911 if you experience any of these symptoms:

Chest Discomfort or pain

A tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in your chest. This may come and go.

Upper body pain

A pain or discomfort that may spread beyond your chest. Areas include shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth, or jaw. You may have these symptoms WITHOUT any chest discomfort.

Stomach pain

Often mistaken for heartburn, the pain may extend down towards your abdominal area.

Shortness of breath

You may try to take in deep breaths or pant. This often occurs without any chest discomfort or before chest discomfort occurs.

Alpine Cardiology - Couple walking in park


Sometimes you may think you are having a panic attack or feel a sense of doom for no apparent reason.


You may feel dizzy or feel like you may pass out.


Suddenly breaking out in a sweat with cold clammy skin.

Nausea and vomiting

Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting may occur.

Heart Palpitations

You may become very aware that your heart is beat or feel as if your heart is skipping beats.

Women may have different symptoms

Alpine Cardiology - Cardiologist listening to woman's heartThe most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms. Particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, back pain, or jaw pain. May women have heart attack symptoms without chest pain.

  • Pain in the neck, back, shoulders or jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain or “heartburn”
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue, possibly for days

Older Adults and People with diabetes

Older adults and people with diabetes may have no or very mild symptoms of a heart attack. Never dismiss any heart attack symptom, even if they don’t seem serious. Seek immediate medical care.

Symptoms May Vary

Heart attacks do not present with the same symptoms or severity of symptoms. Some have mild pain while others have more severe pain. Some have no symptoms at all, the first sign may be sudden cardiac arrest. The signs and symptoms you have, the greater the chance you are having a heart attack.

Many people may have warning signs and symptoms hours, days, or weeks in advance. A heart attack can also strike suddenly. The earliest warning may be a recurrent chest pain or pressure that occurs with activity and is relieved by rest. This may be caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart.

When to Seek Medical Care

Alpine Cardiology Calling 911 and checking for pulseImmediately! Do not wait too long because you don’t recognize the important signs and symptoms.

Call 911

If you think you are having a heart attack, don’t wait. Immediately dial 911 (or your local emergency number). If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only if there are no other options.

Take nitroglycerin

ONLY if it is prescribed to you by your doctor. Take it as instructed while awaiting emergency help.

Take an aspirin

ONLY if recommended by your doctor or emergency medical personnel. Taking an aspirin during a heart attack could reduce heart damage by helping to keep your blood from clotting. Aspirin can interact with other medications, so important to only take if instructed to do so. Do NOT delay calling 911 to take an aspirin, call for help first.

What to do for Someone having a Heart Attack

First, call 911 or emergency medical help. After calling for help, check to see if they are breathing or have a pulse. If a person isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, then you should begin CPR

It is recommended performing only chest compressions if you haven’t been trained in CPR. If you have been trained in CPR you can go on to opening the airway and rescue breathing.

Minutes Matter – Fast Action Can Save Lives

Alpine Cardiology EMS caring for heart attack patientCalling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment.

An emergency medical services team will begin treatment when they arrive. This means that treatment could begin up to an hour sooner than arriving by car to the hospital. Plus, patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital.

Talk to your Health Care Team

If you would like more information on the warning signs of a heart attack and your risks talk to your health care provider. Dr. Bobish and her team want you to be heart healthy, talk to them. They know your health history and are one of your best resources to understand your risks and way to prevent a heart attack.