What exactly does it feel like to have a heart attack? Below is a graphic that depicts what the symptoms men and women can feel when they are experiencing a heart attack (which doctors term a myocardial infarction or “MI”). I’d like to add a few points to that image:
- The difference in symptoms between men and women should not be taken too strictly. Women will often have “typical” symptoms and many men will have “atypical” symptoms.
- Elderly people are more likely to have a heart attack without sensing chest pain or pressure. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why women frequently have atypical symptoms—they are more likely to have a heart attack at an older age.
- Symptoms of an MI are not always dramatic—just because the discomfort isn’t severe doesn’t mean that it isn’t a heart attack.
- The difference between angina and myocardial infarction may only be a difference in duration. If you have symptoms in the chest region that you can’t confidently attribute to something else, and they last longer than 15-20 minutes, call 911.
- Remember: Time is heart muscle. Delaying care means that more heart muscle dies.
Greg Koshkarian, MD, FACC