11 Signs You Are About to Have a Heart Attack

Heart disease is either the number 1 or number 2 killer of Americans. Heart attacks present themselves differently in each person and even between the sexes.

However, there are enough common symptoms that if you experience one or two of these symptoms suddenly, you may want to either call 911 or visit the ER.

Risks include age (over 65), sex (male), family history, race (African descent), smoking, obesity and diet, lack of exercise, high cholesterol, alcohol consumption, and stress.

You don’t have to have risk factors to have a heart attack, so be aware of symptoms!

11. Chest Pain

Both men and women tend to experience chest pain. In general, chest pain may be pain or may feel like pressure, squeezing, or fullness.

The pain often comes and goes and will last a few minutes. It may occur over several days. People describe the pain differently. Men describe it as an elephant sitting on you; women as a squeezing or feeling of fullness.

Chest pain occurs when your heart is not getting enough oxygen. Take time to have it looked at!

10. Jaw, Neck or Back Pain

Both men and women generally experience some sort of pain in the arms, neck, or back. The classic radiation pain down the left arm is usually a symptom for men.

Women generally tend to feel pain in the lower abdomen, lower chest, and upper back pain. Some people will feel pain into the jaw or neck but not always.

Radiating pain may or may not be associated with chest pain. Have unexplained pain in the torso, neck or jaw checked out.

9. Cold/Hot Sweats

If you suddenly break out in a cold or hot sweat or your skin gets clammy, and have one or two other symptoms, get help. Clammy skin feels cold and damp and is not normal in any instance.

Women may be going through peri-menopause and hot flashes. It can be difficult to separate “normal” hot flashes from heart attack sweating. If your sheets are soaked or you can’t sleep due to excessive sweating, insist that your doctor check you out.

8. Lightheadedness

If you suddenly feel like you might pass out if you stand up or do a normal activity, it is worth getting yourself checked out. Lightheadedness makes you feel like you are going to pass out. You may feel like throwing up.

Lightheadedness is caused when blood doesn’t reach the brain. There are many causes. Ongoing lightheadedness may have some serious causes. It is worth having it checked out. If you have other symptoms, call for help.

7. Indigestion, Nausea, and Vomiting

Older people are more at risk for indigestion, so it can be hard to figure out a reason. There are a lot of causes for these symptoms. Nausea and vomiting also have many causes.

You might also feel full but on an empty stomach. All these symptoms occur because your digestive system is getting less blood and not working regularly. However, one of these in conjunction with another symptom warrant a visit to the ER.

6. Shortness of Breath or Exhaustion

If you are having shortness of breath for no reason, you might be suffering a heart attack. Shortness of breath that has a sudden onset and occurs without exertion should be checked out.

Women, in particular, may experience exhaustion or unexplained weakness. You may experience exhaustion or fatigue when trying to complete a task that is generally easy.

You may feel like you are coming down with the flu. Any changes that occur without warning should be checked out.

5. Odd Heart Beats

A racing heart or the feeling that your heart has skipped a beat is normal. You might have had too much coffee or not enough sleep. Maybe you overdid the workout.

If it happens often or the skipped beat occurs several times in a row, you need to contact your doctor. Abnormal heart beats may cause anxiety or unease, or you may feel it in the neck but not chest. If these are associated with any other symptoms, contact a doctor.

4. Swollen Legs, Feet, and Ankles

Generally, you will see swelling in both extremities, not just one. Your heart isn’t able to pull the blood against gravity and the blood backs up, making your feet, legs, and ankles swell. You might also see bloating as your kidneys are unable to cope with changing salt concentration.

Swelling in one leg should be checked out as well, as it can be a symptom on a blood clot that could eventually cause a stroke.

3. Coughing

Usually, coughing is a sign of heart trouble, not an impending heart attack. It can be a symptom of heart congestion. Your heart’s weakness allows fluids build up in the lungs. You cough to try to clear your lungs.

If you know you are at risk or have heart disease and you have a long-lasting cough, have it checked out. If you start spitting up white or pink mucus, you should definitely have yourself checked out.

2. Snoring

Snoring is not a sign that you are having a heart attack, but it can be a sign of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can trigger a heart attack or cause extra strain on your heart.

If you don’t have a partner to comment on your snoring, look for signs like gasping for air while sleeping, morning dry mouth or headache, or daytime sleepiness. If you snore badly and stop breathing for a moment or two, go to the doctor.

1. Confusion

If you are having memory loss or disorientation, you may want someone to check you out. There are many causes for confusion, but one of them in heart failure or coronary disease.

These occur because your blood chemistry is changing and certain substances within the blood are out of normal ranges. Your brain is also not getting enough blood to function properly.

Many times, someone else notices these symptoms first. Insist confused loved ones get checked out.


The challenge of a heart attack is deciding that symptoms all add up to a serious event. Each one can be attributed to non-serious conditions. If you experience more than one symptom, have it check out.

People are also unwilling to disturb emergency workers. Most EMTs and firefighters don’t mind getting called out because you never know. They would rather roll on a mistake than try to revive a corpse.

Put the odds in your favor. Workout, eat right, stop smoking, and control your cholesterol. You’ll feel better in the long run and may stave off a heart attack.