Heart Attack Signs & Symptoms

May 24, 2021


Don’t ignore the signs. Get the care you need when seconds count.

Someone in the U.S. has a heart attack about every 40 seconds. There is good news, however: Many lives can be saved by acting fast.

Warning signs of a heart attack

We might think of heart attacks as sudden and intense, but most start slowly, with warning signs like mild pain or discomfort, and symptoms may come and go. Over time, the symptoms and pain become more intense.

Stay alert and always pay attention to feelings of pressure in the chest. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, back pain, nausea, anxiety, excessive fatigue, jaw pain, pain that travels down one or both arms, and a feeling of fullness.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women vs Men

The most common heart attack symptom among men and women is chest pain and discomfort, although women may also experience vague fatigue, shortness of breath or stomach upset.

“Women are more likely to have these atypical symptoms, but men can have them as well,” says Monica Divakaruni, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Adventist Health St. Helena.

Early care, better results

Heart attack signs can be subtle and easy to ignore. Sometimes they mimic indigestion discomfort, and even heart experts may have difficulty telling the difference at first, Dr. Divakaruni says. Most heart damage, unfortunately, can occur within the first two hours of an attack.

“For every minute there’s no blood flow to the heart muscle, those muscle cells are dying,” Dr. Divakaruni says. “The quicker you go to the hospital, the less likely you are to have a bad outcome.”

Adventist Health St. Helena is a receiving center for people having a STEMI, the deadliest form of heart attack. Its doctors and staff are specially trained to treat people quickly. Dr. Divakaruni and her fellow interventional cardiologists assess patients in the cardiac catheterization lab within 30 minutes of arrival to open blocked arteries that cause a heart attack.

If you think someone is having a heart attack, call 911 and get help right away.

Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute in Napa County

Adventist Health’s heart and vascular experts are ready to work with you to prevent and treat heart disease.

Stewart Allen, MD
Interventional cardiology

Peter Chang-Sing, MD
Cardiac electrophysiology

Monica Divakaruni, MD
Interventional cardiology

Gan Dunnington, MD
Cardiothoracic surgery

Susan Eisenberg, MD
Cardiac electrophysiology

Manly Hyde, MD
Cardiac surgery

Armin Kiankhooy, MD
Cardiothoracic surgery

John Laird, MD
Interventional cardiology

Jeong Sik Park, MD
Interventional cardiology

Kathleen Tong, MD

When emergencies strike

Adventist Health St. Helena’s emergency department is known for expert care for heart attacks and more, with below-average wait times. Visit AdventistHealthStHelena.org/Emergency.