person holding chest. Heart attack, heart disease concept
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
July 3, 2024 ·  3 min read

9 Heart Attack Symptoms That Are Frequently Misdiagnosed

Heart attacks are a serious medical emergency, but unfortunately, they are frequently misdiagnosed, especially in women. Misdiagnosis can delay crucial treatment, leading to severe complications or even death. Here are nine symptoms of heart attacks that are often mistaken for other conditions, highlighting the importance of recognizing these signs promptly.

1. Chest Discomfort

man grabbing at his chest
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Chest discomfort, often described as angina, is a common heart attack symptom. It occurs when the heart is deprived of blood due to a blocked coronary artery. This discomfort can manifest as tightness, pressure, or heaviness rather than sharp pain. Interestingly, while men might call it “chest pain,” women often refer to it as “discomfort” or “pressing” sensations. Despite these differences in description, the underlying sensation is similar for both genders.1

2. Arm Pain

man holding his arm in pain
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Discomfort in the arm, particularly the left arm, is another frequent symptom of heart attacks. This referred pain from the chest area can manifest as a dull ache rather than a shooting pain. The arm may feel heavy, and there might be tingling in the fingers.

Read More: 8 Surprising Signs of Heart Valve Disease

3. Upper Body Pain

woman with shoulder pain
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Pain from a heart attack can also radiate to other parts of the upper body, including the neck, shoulders, upper back, and jaw. This pain often occurs only on the left side and may worsen with physical activity. Patients with such symptoms might consult specialists for throat or jaw pain, overlooking a looming heart attack as the potential source.2

4. Indigestion

man in hospital with indegestion
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A heart attack can sometimes mimic indigestion, causing a burning sensation in the abdomen. This is particularly misleading for younger individuals who might mistake it for gastroesophageal reflux. Consequently, they might delay seeking medical help, thinking it’s a minor stomach issue.

Read More: Heart Disease: 10 Warning Signs that Appear On Your Skin

5. Sweating

black and white photo sweating
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Unexplained heavy sweating, clamminess, or cold sweats can be a potential symptom of a heart attack. This sweating, triggered by the sympathetic nervous system, can occur without any physical exertion and should be a red flag if it accompanies other symptoms like chest discomfort or pain.

6. Shortness of Breath

woman catching her breath
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Breathlessness, especially during physical activity, can signal a heart attack. This symptom becomes particularly concerning if it’s unusual for the person. For instance, someone who can typically run long distances without issues but suddenly finds themselves short of breath may be experiencing heart problems.

7. Fatigue

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Overwhelming fatigue or weakness that comes on suddenly can be an early sign of a heart attack. This symptom is often reported as an unusual exhaustion that impedes regular activities, such as making a bed or walking short distances.

Read More: Energy Drinks May Trigger Dangerous Condition in People With Heart Disease, Study

8. Nausea and Vomiting

Young asian woman in casual feeling nausea, cover mouth, standing next to table in kitchen, copy space. Toxicosis during pregnancy, food poisoning concep

Nausea and vomiting are surprising yet common symptoms of a heart attack. Many people mistake these symptoms for a stomach flu or food poisoning, delaying their visit to the emergency room. Persistent nausea combined with other symptoms like chest pain should prompt immediate medical attention.

9. Anxiety

anxious man
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Feelings of anxiety, panic, or a sense of impending doom can be related to a heart attack. These sensations are due to the body’s sympathetic nervous system responding to the heart’s distress. Unlike typical panic attacks that subside within minutes, this anxiety lingers and can be accompanied by other physical symptoms.

Conclusion

Young woman pressing on chest with painful expression. Severe heartache, having heart attack or painful cramps, heart disease.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Recognizing the diverse symptoms of heart attacks is crucial, especially since these signs are often misdiagnosed, particularly in women. It’s essential to act swiftly when these symptoms appear to ensure timely and appropriate treatment, potentially saving lives.

Read More: How Fast Do You Walk? It Could Predict Your Heart Disease Risk

Sources

  1. Misdiagnosis of heart attacks in women.” BHF
  2. “These Are the Heart Attack Symptoms That Are Most Frequently Misdiagnosed” MSN. Liza Bendall. July 2024.

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.