Heart attack symptoms

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The warning signs of a heart attack

Warning signs may not be what you think. They can vary from person to person, and they may not always be sudden or severe.

Heart attack symptoms

These are the most common warning signs of a heart attack. You may have just one of these symptoms, or a combination.

It's vital to get treatment fast, to limit damage to your heart. If you experience the warning signs of a heart attack, call Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Touch over the symptoms to learn more about the warning signs of a heart attack

Cold sweat

You may break out in a cold sweat while experiencing other heart attack symptoms.

Dizziness

You may feel dizzy or light-headed while experiencing other heart attack symptoms.

Jaw

You may feel an ache or tightness in and around your lower jaw on one or both sides. This discomfort can spread from your chest to your jaw.

Neck

You may feel a general discomfort in your neck, or a choking or burning feeling in your throat. This discomfort may spread from your chest or shoulders to your neck.

Back

You may feel a dull ache in between your shoulder blades. This discomfort can spread from your chest to your back.

Shoulder(s)

You may experience a general ache, heaviness or pressure around one or both of your shoulders. This discomfort may spread from your chest to your shoulder(s).

Short of Breath

You may find it difficult to breathe or take a deep breath due to a tight or constricted feeling in your chest.

Chest

You may feel pain, heaviness, tightness pressure or a crushing sensation in the centre of your chest. This discomfort may be mild and make you feel generally unwell.

Arm(s)

Discomfort, pain, heaviness or uselessness in one or both arms. People who have had a heart attack describe feelings of discomfort, numbness or tingling in their arm(s). This discomfort may spread from your chest to your arm(s).

Nausea

You may feel nauseous or generally unwell while experiencing other heart attack symptoms.

Cold sweat

You may break out in a cold sweat while experiencing other heart attack symptoms.

Dizziness

You may feel dizzy or light-headed while experiencing other heart attack symptoms.

Jaw

You may feel an ache or tightness in and around your lower jaw on one or both sides. This discomfort can spread from your chest to your jaw.

Neck

You may feel a general discomfort in your neck, or a choking or burning feeling in your throat. This discomfort may spread from your chest or shoulders to your neck.

Back

You may feel a dull ache in between your shoulder blades. This discomfort can spread from your chest to your back.

Shoulder(s)

You may experience a general ache, heaviness or pressure around one or both of your shoulders. This discomfort may spread from your chest to your shoulder(s).

Short of Breath

You may find it difficult to breathe or take a deep breath due to a tight or constricted feeling in your chest.

Chest

You may feel pain, heaviness, tightness pressure or a crushing sensation in the centre of your chest. This discomfort may be mild and make you feel generally unwell.

Arm(s)

Discomfort, pain, heaviness or uselessness in one or both arms. People who have had a heart attack describe feelings of discomfort, numbness or tingling in their arm(s). This discomfort may spread from your chest to your arm(s).

Nausea

You may feel nauseous or generally unwell while experiencing other heart attack symptoms.

Discomfort or pain in your chest

This can often feel like a heaviness, tightness or pressure. People who have had a heart attack have commonly described it as:

  • An elephant sitting on their chest
  • A belt tightening around their chest
  • Bad indigestion. 

Although chest pain is a common symptom of a heart attack, some people may not experience this at all. Some people will experience a very mild chest pain or discomfort. Others may experience one or more of the symptoms listed below.

Discomfort in your arm(s), shoulder(s), neck, jaw or back

You may have a choking feeling in your throat. Your arms may feel heavy or useless. You may have a pain, pressure, heaviness, or tightness in your arm(s) shoulder(s), neck, jaw or back.

Other symptoms

You may:

  • Feel short of breath
  • Feel nauseous
  • Have a cold sweat
  • Feel dizzy or light-headed.

Some people have also described feeling generally unwell or 'not quite right'.

Symptoms can come on suddenly or develop over minutes and get progressively worse. They usually last for at least 10 minutes.

If you have had one heart attack you are at more risk of another. But the symptoms may be different each time.

Learn more about what happens during a heart attack

What to do if you think you are having a heart attack

If you feel any of the above symptoms, the Heart Foundation recommends following these steps: 

Stop

Rest immediately.

Talk

Tell someone how you feel.

If you take angina medicine:

  1. Take a dose of your medicine
  2. Wait 5 minutes.
  3. Still have symptoms? Take another dose of your medicine.
  4. Wait 5 minutes.

Call 000

Call Triple Zero* if your symptoms are severe, getting worse or have lasted for 10 minutes. 

Chew 300mg aspirin, unless you have an allergy to aspirin or if your doctor has told you not to take it.

  • Ask for an ambulance
  • Don’t hang up
  • Wait for the operator's instructions.

*If calling Triple Zero (000) does not work on your mobile phone, try 112 instead.

Download your free Heart Attack Action Plan.

Why this is important

  • In 2016-17 around 57,000 Australians suffered a heart attack.
  • On average, 21 Australians die from a heart attack each day. This is equivalent to one death from a heart attack every 67 minutes.

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Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest

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Personal stories

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Read about heart attack symptoms in your language

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