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A heart attack does not feel like two elephants fighting in your chest. Patients go through different experiences and some are more subtle that you may think.

What Patients Go Through:

  • Heartburn-like chest pain. It’s quite common for heart attacks to feel like acid reflux.
  • Shortness of breath. Some heart attacks don’t cause pain at all. These “silent heart attacks” are most common in people with diabetes, older adults and those who have had bypass surgery.
  • Profound fatigue. This symptom is most common in elderly patients and can be misdiagnosed as a flu-like illness.
  • Nausea and sweating. While these symptoms can come with heavy chest pain, they also can occur by themselves, especially in women. These symptoms commonly accompany heart attacks to the inferior wall (bottom) of the heart.

What a heart attack doesn’t feel like

Not all chest pain is a heart attack symptom. Pain is unlikely to be heart-related when it:

  • Is momentary, lasting only for a few seconds.
  • Feels like a pricking sensation.
  • Is in a small, well-localized area of your chest.
  • Can be reproduced when you press on your chest or move your arm.
  • Radiates below your abdomen and into your legs.

What To Not Do:

  • Drive yourself to the ER. Call for an ambulance instead.


Cleveland Clinic