Heart attack symptoms: How do you know if you are having a heart attack? When to call 999

Heart attacks happen when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. They can be life-threatening and are considered a medical emergency, so it’s essential to get immediate attention if you are having one. Most people associate heart attacks with pain in the chest, but sometimes this can be very subtle or may not occur at all. So how do you know if you are having a heart attack?

It’s important to stress that not everyone experiences severe chest pain


When it comes to chest pain, the NHS describes it as a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of the chest.

For example, the chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object.

The pain can also spread from the chest to the arms, jaw, neck, back and abdomen.

But although chest pain associated with a heart attack is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to a feeling of indigestion.

In addition, contrary to what many people think, pain doesn’t always come on suddenly.

It may come on slowly, making it less obvious what you are experiencing is a heart attack.

In some cases, there may not be any chest pain at all, especially in women, the elderly and people with diabetes, according to the NHS.

“It’s important to stress that not everyone experiences severe chest pain,” warns the NHS.

Because chest pain can be minor or not present at all, people may be fooled into thinking they are not having a heart attack when they actually are.

It’s therefore important to be aware of the other symptoms of a heart attack, so you know when to call an ambulance.

Aside from chest pain, other symptoms of a heart attack include feeling lightheaded or dizzy, sweating and shortness of breath.

Early warning signs of a heart attack

Although chest pain is often severe, sometimes people only suffer minor pain, similar to indigestion. Here are some of the early warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

It can also cause you to feel or be sick, start coughing or wheezing, and experience a feeling similar to a panic attack.

The NHS notes it is the combination of symptoms that helps to determine whether you are having a heart attack, rather than the severity of chest pain.

“If you suspect the symptoms of a heart attack, dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance,” warns the NHS.

“Don’t worry if you have doubts. Paramedics would rather be called out to find an honest mistake has been made than be too late to save a person’s life.”

The leading cause of heart attacks is coronary heart disease. Learn how to test at home if you are at risk of developing heart disease and how to lower your risk of developing the condition here.

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