know the warning signs of a heart attack - every second matters


When one of the arteries bringing blood to your heart muscle becomes blocked, you can have a heart attack. This blockage can stop blood flowing to the part of the heart muscle below the blockage. If not fixed quickly, the heart muscle will start to die, which leads to permanent damage. 

But many people often aren’t aware they are having a heart attack, with research showing that more than six million Australians cannot recognise the typical warning signs of a heart attack.

“The warning signs of a heart attack can vary from person to person and may not always be sudden or severe,” says the Heart Foundation’s Queensland Heart Health Manager, Associate Professor Anna Lewis.

“Some people may experience one symptom while others might experience a combination of signs.

“Chest pain or discomfort are common symptoms of a heart attack, but some people will not have this at all, while others will have only mild chest pain or discomfort.

“Some people have said it feels like a heavy weight or intense pressure, and others describe it as bad indigestion,” A/Prof Lewis says.  

The warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Discomfort, heaviness, tightness, pressure or pain in the chest
  • Pain or discomfort in the arm(s), shoulder(s), neck, jaw or back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue or tiredness (especially in women) and/or generally feeling unwell.


It is important to note that for women, the warning signs of a heart attack can be different to those in men.

“Chest pain is a common warning sign, but women are more likely than men to experience nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, cold sweats, pain or discomfort in the jaw, hands, arms or back. 

“It is important if you have any of these symptoms that you tell someone you are not feeling well and rest for 10 minutes. If the symptoms are still there after 10 minutes call Triple 000 for an ambulance. 

“With a heart attack, time is crucial. Too many people in Australia have lost their lives because they delayed calling Triple Zero (000). Don’t ignore your symptoms, as getting to hospital quickly can save your life,” A/Prof Lewis says.

The Heart Foundation recommends you familiarise yourself with these warning signs, as getting to hospital quickly can reduce the damage to your heart muscle and increase your chance of survival.

If you have any questions call the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12 or head to the Heart Foundation website.

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