If I'm having a heart attack, will I always feel chest pain?
Dr. Devin Minior, MD is an emergency physician at Banner Goldfield Medical Center in Apache Junction. Banner Goldfield is a cardiac referral center and coordinates care with its sister facility, Banner Heart Hospital in Mesa. For more information, call Banner Goldfield at 480-733-3300.
Question: If I’m having a heart attack, will I always feel chest pain?
Answer: The signs and symptoms of heart attacks vary greatly from person to person, and particularly between men and women. The classic image of the heart attack patient is someone with sudden and severe pain who grabs the chest and collapses. While some individuals will experience this level of intensity, the onset of many heart attacks occurs slowly, leading people to ignore the signs and causing more significant heart damage.
For men, the most common signs of heart attack are pain, pressure or squeezing in the chest, or discomfort in other areas of the body, such as the arms, neck, back or stomach. The individual might experience nausea or dizziness and feel short of breath. Each of these symptoms can occur on its own or in combination with others.
For women, the symptoms of a heart attack are often milder and frequently attributed to other conditions. Women are also more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as fatigue, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, and dizziness. As a consequence, more women than men actually die each year from complications of heart disease.
Both men and women should always pay close attention to any changes in their health and promptly report these issues to a medical professional. If a heart attack is suspected, please call 911 immediately. Emergency medical personnel can provide necessary treatment and transportation to the nearest emergency facility. Taking swift action and calling for help are essential steps in protecting the heart from additional damage.