Heart Attack Recognition

How to treat a suspected heart attack

The symptoms of a heart attack vary slightly from one person to another. They range from a severe pain in the centre of the chest, to having mild chest discomfort that makes you feel generally unwell.

The pain often feels like a heaviness or tightness which may also spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach.

Or it may affect only the neck, jaw, arms or stomach. You may also sweat, feel light-headed, feel sick, or be short of breath.

Symptoms can be very mild and produce little discomfort. In some cases people mistake the pain of a heart attack for indigestion and may never report it to their doctor.

If you experience any of these symptoms, don't ignore them. Call 999 immediately.

Very common, typical heart attack symptoms:

  • Central chest pain
  • Pain in your arms, neck or jaw
  • Feeling sick or sweaty
  • Feeling short of breath

Less common, less typical symptoms:

  • A dull pain, ache, or 'heavy' feeling in the chest
  • A mild discomfort in the chest that makes you feel generally unwell 
  • The pain in the chest can spread to the back or stomach
  • A chest pain that feels like a bad episode of indigestion 
  • Feeling a bit light-headed or dizzy as well as having chest pain

More information on recognizing symptoms, and what and what you can do to minimise the risk of a heart attack, can be found on the Living With Heart Conditions section of British Heart Foundation BHF website.