7 Little-Known Signs Of A Heart Attack To Look Out For

by Carina Wolff
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When some people think of a heart attack, they picture someone clutching their chest dramatically and falling to the floor. But in reality, chest pain isn't the only indicator that's something is wrong, as there are a number of little-known signs of a heart attack to look out for as well. Spotting these signs early on can help you discover if something is amiss and can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. This is especially important for women, as they are more likely to experience these subtle symptoms.

"Heart attack symptoms do not always revolve around the chest, although the best-known symptom is chest pain," cardiologist Robert Segal, MD, tells Bustle. "However, that’s not always the case. There are a number of factors that need to be considered such as sex, age, and type of heart disease. With this in mind, it is important to note that just because someone is not experiencing chest pains, that [doesn't mean] they are not having a heart attack. There are, what we call, silent signs."

It's important to note that these symptoms on their own can happen for a number of reasons, and just because you are experiencing one doesn't mean you're having a heart attack. But if you are experiencing multiple symptoms at one time and aren't sure why, it could indicate a heart attack, and immediate medical attention could be necessary.

Here are seven little-known signs of a heart attack, according to experts.




One subtle sign of a heart attack is fatigue. "People suddenly feel tired and have little energy," Dr. Lowell Steen Jr., MD, interventional cardiologist at Loyola University Medical Center, tells Bustle. "Presumably, this is from the heart not operating at full capacity, so the cardiac output is reduced. This means the heart is actually pumping less blood to the body." While sudden fatigue does not always mean someone is having a heart attack, take note if it is accompanied by any other symptoms like chest pain and lightheadedness.



If you feel unusually sick to your stomach, it could be a sign that something is amiss. "Another heart attack sign is nausea or vomiting," Dr. Steen says. "It’s not well known why this occurs, but many patients experience this symptom when having a heart attack." Recurring nausea or feeling physically exhausted even if you have not been moving could be a warning sign, Dr. Segal says. This is especially common among women.


Discomfort In Other Places In The Body

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Radiating pain in the back, neck, jaw, or shoulder can indicate a heart attack, cardiologist Dr. Luiza Petre tells Bustle. Some patients feel heart burn or indigestion. Or you may feel numbness or tingling in the left shoulder and arm, cardiologist Waqar Khan, M.D, tells Bustle.


Sudden Sweating


Perspiring while experiencing discomfort in the chest, arm, neck or jaw, could mean the onset of a heart attack, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago. It could be the start of a heart attack if you are sweating, despite not moving around or being in a hot environment, Dr. Segal says.




"When the heart is affected by a heart attack, the force of pumping blood goes down," Dr. Petre says. "Therefore, less blood reaches the brain, making someone feel like fainting." If this is accompanied by shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, seek medical help, as shortness of breath is another common sign of a heart attack.


Jaw Pain/Toothache


Pain that starts near a cluster of nerves, like your heart, can be felt someplace else on the body, according to WebMD, and this pain can be experienced in the jaw or mouth. "Together with an accompanying headache, this could mean a heart attack," Dr. Segal says. "This is more common in women and usually, people go to the dentist instead of a cardiologist. The pain could only last a few minutes, but unfortunately, it will not go away and will keep returning."


Abdominal Pain

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Stomach pain can mean many things, but it can be a symptom of a heart attack, especially if it's in the upper part of the abdomen. "This usually happens in women where they experience severe abdominal pain," Dr. Segal says. "Some would describe the feeling like something very heavy sitting on their stomach."

Since many of these symptoms can happen from other issues, it can be confusing if they're a sign of a heart attack. If you're unsure, ask yourself "Did I have this before, is this any different from what I experienced before, was it triggered by stress or effort, and is it coming and going?" Clues that this might not be heart-related are if it gets worse after food, is relieved by belching, or the pain reproduces with body movements or a cough, Dr. Petre says. If none of these apply, seek medical help immediately.