Heart Attack


Symptoms and Warning Signs

Chest pain can be a sign that your heart muscle isn’t receiving enough blood and oxygen. When chest pain comes from an inadequate blood supply to the heart muscle it is called angina. Not all chest pain comes from angina, but if you experience chest pain, see your healthcare provider right away.

  • Angina can feel like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or burning in the chest.
  • You usually feel angina pain or discomfort under the breastbone, but you can feel it anywhere in the chest, upper abdomen, jaw, throat, back, shoulders, or inner part of the arm. 
  • The pain can be mild to severe, depending on the degree of coronary artery blockage.
  • The pain typically happens during physical activity and is usually strong enough to make you immediately stop what you are doing.
  • Some patients, especially women, may not have chest pain even during a heart attack. Instead, they may have other symptoms, or even no symptoms at all (silent heart attack).

Severe chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack. This requires immediate emergency medical attention.

Call 911 right away, even if you’re not certain you’re in trouble. The sooner a heart attack is diagnosed and treated, the better. 

A common symptom of coronary artery disease is shortness of breath, more than you usually experience when you’re physically active. Since shortness of breath without chest pain might be your only symptom of heart disease, it’s important to seek medical attention if you have trouble catching your breath. 

As stated previously, older adults more commonly present with atypical symptoms. Therefore, any unusual symptoms that are sudden should be taken seriously and investigated by a healthcare provider.

Other signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease in older adults:

  • Extreme fatigue during physical activity
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting or heartburn
  • A racing heartbeat (palpitations)
  • An uneven heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in mental state, such as confusion or anxiety, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Pain in your jaw or left arm. 
In older adults, shortness of breath or unusual fatigue during physical activity calls for a complete medical check-up as soon as possible.


Last Updated July 2020