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Heart attack signs: How do you know if you’re having one?

Almost 20 Australians suffer a fatal heart attack every day.

Heart attacks occur when the arteries that supply blood to your heart become blocked, preventing the flow of blood and oxygen.

People experience heart attacks differently. While some patients might have many of the symptoms discussed here, others might have one or two – and others won’t have any symptoms at all.

These symptoms can all be caused by other conditions and factors (such as exercise and extreme temperatures). But bear in mind that your heart is an important piece of kit – if you have any doubts at all about whether you might be having a heart attack, seek medical help immediately.

Common symptoms of a heart attack

Here are some of the most common signs that you could be having a heart attack:

  • Chest pain

This can present itself as uncomfortable pressure, or a squeezing or numb sensation in your chest. This pain might spread to your arms, back or neck. It can last for several minutes at a time, or it might come and go.

  • Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath can be caused by exercise and other factors like high altitudes or extreme temperature. If, however, you experience shortness of breath that concerns you, it could be a sign that you’re having a heart attack and it’s best to get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible.

  • Dizziness or feeling faint

Feeling light-headed or as though the room is spinning.

  • Indigestion

Indigestion can be confused with a heart attack as it can cause a similar discomfort and pain in the chest. Unfortunately, heart attacks can also be mistaken for indigestion, so if you’re in doubt, get it checked out.

  • Nausea and vomiting

We all know that nausea and vomiting can be caused by many other conditions, such as food poisoning and the flu. But it can also be sign of a heart attack, especially among women (see below).

  • Sweating or chills

Again, a simple change in temperature can cause sweats or chills. But it can also be a sign of a heart attack.

Women and heart attack

It’s worth remembering that women can present with different symptoms to men. While women can experience all of the above symptoms, they are more likely to experience arm or back pain than chest pain, for example. They are also more likely to report nausea and vomiting and extreme tiredness or fatigue.

A heart attack with no symptoms

Some people who suffer a heart attack don’t have any symptoms at all. That’s why it’s a good idea to get regular check-ups with a heart specialist, so they can identify any concerns before they cause serious complications. Talk to your GP to arrange a referral.

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