Authored by Revere Health

How to Recognize a Heart Attack

October 9, 2017 | Cardiology

A heart attack, which occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked, can be fatal. Immediate medical attention in the case of a heart attack is vital, and in many cases, this means recognizing the common signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attack symptoms tend to start slowly with mild pain and discomfort, though some can be sudden and intense. Here are the basics on signs and symptoms of a heart attack, plus how to respond.


Basic Symptoms

The following symptoms may signal a heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort, generally in the center of the chest and lasting more than a few minutes. This discomfort may go away and come back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Upper body discomfort: Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, either with or without chest discomfort.
  • Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Not all heart attacks will show the same symptoms or the same severity of symptoms. In some cases, no symptoms will be present. The more signs and symptoms, however, the greater the likelihood a heart attack is occurring.


Varied Between Men and Women

Heart attack symptoms may vary between men and women. Both men and women share their most common symptom, chest pain or discomfort, but they differ beyond this. Women are slightly more likely to experience other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Men are slightly less likely to experience these additional symptoms.


Immediate Response

The steps you should take if you are experiencing these symptoms or see someone else experiencing them include:

  • Call for emergency medical help immediately: Do not hesitate—call 911 or a local emergency number right away. If emergency services are not accessible, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital (or do this for the person suffering the symptoms). Only drive yourself if there are no other options, as driving while undergoing these symptoms can put you and others at risk.
  • Take or give nitroglycerin if this has been prescribed by a doctor.
  • Take or give aspirin if recommended. This could reduce heart damage by preventing clotting. Because aspirin can interfere with other medications, however, do not take or give it unless instructed by a doctor or emergency medical personnel.

Every minute counts during a heart attack. If you find someone who is unconscious, first call for medical attention and then perform CPR to keep blood flowing. Push hard and fast on their chest in a rapid rhythm at about 100 to 120 compressions per minute (about two per second). Do not check their airway or deliver rescue breaths unless you’ve been trained in CPR.

For more on recognizing and reacting to heart attack signs and symptoms, speak to your doctor.

Our providers are board certified in general cardiology and interventional cardiology. We have over 30 providers with decades of experience in heart-related care. As a part of Utah’s largest independent physician group, we have a network of physicians who are able to care for all cardiology needs.



“Warning Signs of a Heart Attack.” American Heart Association.

“Heart attack.” The Mayo Clinic.



The Live Better Team

Telehealth is not appropriate for every medical concern, so it’s important to ask your provider whether a virtual visit is suitable for your needs.

Learn more about Telehealth

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.