The Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

By Anthony Pacitto

An estimated 16,000 Canadians die from heart attacks each year because they are not capable of identifying the body’s natural warning signs 2. It is important to take action at the first sign of a heart attack in order to reduce the chances of both heart damage and death 3. The following information will help you easily identify the typical warning signs/symptoms of a heart attackā€¦

Chest Pain

  • Any pain, pressure or squeezing within the center and/or left side of the chest. This discomfort or pain may last for a few minutes before fading and returning again.

Upper Body Discomfort

  • Further discomfort or pain within the upper extremity, such as: one or both arms, neck, upper back or jaw. 1, 4

Shortness of Breath

  • This symptom is often accompanied by upper-body discomfort and chest pain. 3


  • This symptom often involves breaking out in random cold-sweats. 3


  • Feeling light-headed, disoriented or confused. Some patients experience a “sense of impending doom” emotion. 4


  • This symptom often involves breaking out in random cold-sweats. 3

* It is important to note that not everyone will experience a combination of all the symptoms listed above. One person may experience severe chest discomfort, light-headedness and sweating; whereas, another person may only experience mild chest pain.

If you believe that you or someone else may be experiencing a heart attack, contact 9-1-1 immediately! Do not drive yourself to a medical facility, instead call for an ambulance where they can begin to assist you onsite. Quick access to medical treatment could mean the difference between life-and-death - every second counts!


  1. Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2011). Heart attack warning signs. Retrieved from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3483917/k.CD6/Heart_disease_Heart_Attack_Warning_Signs.htm
  2. Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2012). Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3483991/k.34A8/Statistics.htm
  3. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. (2011). What is a heart attack? Retrieved from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heartattack/
  4. Ornato, J., & Hand, M. (2001). Warning signs of a heart attack. Retrieved from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/104/11/1212.full

The articles, on the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada website, are presented with the understanding that the Foundation is providing information only and not rendering medical advice. Please check with your family physician, specialist or health care professional before implementing any of the ideas expressed in these articles.