Heart attack symptoms

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

It's vital to get treatment fast, to limit damage to your heart. If you experience any of these warning signs, call 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, some people may not experience this at all. Some people will experience 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

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Cold sweat
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed.

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

If you have had a 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

Heart attack and cardiac arrest: the key differences

A heart attack and a cardiac arrest are two different conditions. If left untreated, a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest. 

A heart attack occurs when an artery supplying blood to the heart becomes blocked; this is a circulation problem. This blockage reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the heart muscle and, without treatment, the heart muscle will begin to die, leading to permanent heart damage. Heart attacks can be fatal. If you are, or someone you know is, experiencing heart attack symptoms, you should immediately call 000.

A cardiac arrest occurs due to an electrical problem in the heart.  This means the heart stops beating properly and is unable to pump blood. A person experiencing cardiac arrest will be unconscious and will stop breathing or will not be breathing normally. Cardiac arrest is often fatal if a normal heart rhythm is not quickly restored. If someone is unconscious and not breathing, call 000 and start CPR.

Learn more about cardiac arrest and what to do.

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

If you feel any of the above symptoms we recommend 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 000 if your symptoms are severe, getting worse or have lasted for 10 minutes. 

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

While on the phone, chew 300mg aspirin, unless you have an allergy to aspirin or if your doctor has told you not to take it.

Read about heart attack symptoms in your language

We have translated information in 11 different languages including Cantonese, Mandarin and Arabic. Find information in your language.