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HeartAttck-share-your-experience

What Did a Heart Attack Feel Like? Survivors Share Their Experiences

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Would you recognize signs that you or your loved one is having a heart attack?

Nausea, heartburn, teeth hurting … these are all signs people tell us they felt while having a heart attack. We’d like your help in contributing to the report.

What did a heart attack feel like to you or your loved one? Were you caught off guard? Share your story in the form below and we’ll build a resource based on the feedback.

Reader Responses

Dan Shupnick

On December 13, 2016 I shoveled some snow and was wrapping presents. About two hours later, had what seemed like severe heartburn with chest tightness, shortness of breath and back pain across the shoulder blades. Went to the hospital but felt better when I got there, went back home without going in. About 5:30 AM the next morning same symptoms came back and I knew it was my heart

What did it feel like? 

Extreme anxiety
Severe tightness and squeezing in the chest
Pain across the upper back that won’t go away
Trouble breathing
Nausea

Advice

No matter how healthy you are, how well you watch your diet and exercise, you can still have issues due to genetics.

Karl Laub

I work for the City of River Rouge and went to lunch. I was sitting in my car and the middle of my chest hurt for a few minutes and then it went away. Happened many times. My jaw and neck hurt also. I went to my office and looked up heart attack symptoms on the computer. I then drove to Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital and the rest is history, I almost just went home because the pain stopped being severe. I had two stints put in. I was and am a regular runner. so you never know.

What did it feel like?

A weird pain in my chest that would come and go. Neck and jaw pain. I knew something wasn’t right.

Advice 

Go to the doctor’s regularly. I had not been to the doctors in probably 6 years. I didn’t meet my family physician until i was in the hospital for my heart attack.

Lauren Monsen

Had a heart attack hours after my 66th birthday. Went to bed very late and started to feel cold, nauseous. Then felt crushing chest pain, very hard to breathe and finally, pain going down the inside of each arm. Very scary feeling, but it was the middle of the night. With 3 dogs and living alone, I was afraid to call 911 and leave my dogs who would need to go out and eat by morning. So I waited until daylight. Per my doctor, I could have died by waiting!

Had trouble walking and breathing due to the crushing pain in my chest, but I got my dogs out and fed, then called a friend for help. He took me to the closest Urgent Care, who told me to immediately drive to the hospital. They should have called 911. I walked into the hospital on my own and when they heard my symptoms, got me into a wheelchair, ran tests and immediately rushed me to a room where a doctor told me I had major blockage, and he was putting in a stent. It had been over 11 hours since my heart attack began. I spent 8 days in the hospital as I got an infection in an IV in my arm, so while the heart doctor released me in 5 days, the infectious diseases doctor would not as I did not arrive at the hospital with an infection in my arm!

Afterward, very, very tired. Slow recovery which included extensive cardio rehab.

What did it feel like? 

Very scary — was cold even with covers on, extreme nausea, crushing chest pain like you can’t imagine, trouble breathing, trouble talking as you can’t breath, then pain going down the inside of each arm. I had the classic symptoms.

Advice 

Don’t think that because you are not overweight (people always tell me I look great for my age, now 69), that it can’t happen to you. As the ads say, I had no warning before it started. I still need to work on my diet and exercise, but I moved to FL last year, hoping to live a healthier lifestyle by being in a year around warmer climate.

Cheryl

Unfortunately, my husband died from cardiac arrest. His first heart attack was a year earlier. He didn’t find out or realize it for three days later. He couldn’t believe it. It was nothing like you see on TV – he had no chest pains.

What did it feel like? 

Before he had his heart attack he was complaining of heartburn. I think this is a common symptom.

Advice 

Don’t ignore these signs – if something doesn’t “feel right,” go see your doctor!

Michelle Reavely

I had suddenly started having intermittent lower jaw pain and bilateral arm pain. Not really any chest pain. This went on for bout a week. I kept ignoring it. Too busy working or whatever even though I KNEW what it was. Finally went to the hospital when the pain woke me from a sound sleep. Had a stent placed within the hr.

What did it feel like? 

My symptoms were really bad lower jaw pain and bilateral arm pain at the same time. Not really any chest pain. Maybe a heaviness or tightness but not so much.

Advice

GO to the hospital. Don’t wait. I believed because of my age and good health, it couldn’t be me, but it was.

Sue Godchild

I was awaken several night with a pain in my chest and thought oh it’s heartburn. Then I went to work on Saturday, within a hour I had such a pain in my chest and I couldn’t breathe. Someone at work wanted call Ems and I kept saying no, all I wanted was to go home. Finally I agreed to have someone to take me to a urgent care. Called my husband to meet me there. Make a long story short I was in trouble. In all couldn’t breathe, extreme pain, my teeth hurt, pain down my left arm. The doctor called to have me taken to a hospital, and in their parking lot was a helicopter! All I could think I was a dead woman. I hope I could help other women do not wait or try to fool yourself. Thank you for listening.

Marilyn deRaad

I had a heart attack two days before Thanksgiving in 2009. I was 58 years old. I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, nauseated with a slight tightness in my chest. There was no crushing pain. It crossed my mind that I was having a heart attack, but I was in complete denial. I had lost my husband the year before to cancer and I just couldn’t face it. I waited until the following afternoon to have my son take me to the ER. Of course, I should have called 911 immediately, I am lucky to be here. A stent was placed soon after I arrived at the hospital.

What did it feel like? 

In my case, cold sweat, nausea and tightness.

Advice 

Never ignore any signs and symptoms. Be proactive.

Charles

My cat saved my life. I was asleep and he kept running into my face until I got up. I didn’t really notice anything except I was breathing a little heavily. I went downstairs made coffee and sat down with a cigarette. I knew something was wrong right away. How did it feel? My breathing wasn’t that far from normal nor would I characterize it as painful. There was an incredible tightness in my chest and numbness running down my left arm. I was experiencing cold sweats–extremely cold and extremely clammy. I was getting progressively light headed. I got dressed and phoned an ambulance. When my friends went to pick up some things for me, they found a full cup of coffee, an extinguished cigarette, and a web page with a list of heart attack symptoms.

What did it feel like?

  • Intense tightness in the chest.
  • Numbness and tingling in left arm.
  • Cold sweats and extremely clammy sensation.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Some breathing difficulty.

Advice 

I was fit, but not healthy. Get checked. Make sure you’re healthy. Get fit. You never know who when or where a heart attack might strike.

Kyle DuBreuil

My heart attack was November 11th of 2016, I was 51 years old. I woke up in the middle of the night to pain down the center of my chest. No crushing pressure, no tightening. It didn’t radiate anywhere, just about 4″ vertical. We called 911, the EKG given by the EMTs showed nothing wrong, but the pain was worse. So we went to the hospital, the EKG was still ok. By the time the EKG and labs showed the heart attack, it was almost too late to remove the blockage and put in the stent.

What did it feel like? 

  • Pain down the center of my chest
  • Anxiety
  • Lightheaded

Advice 

Trust yourself: if something feels off, go in and get it checked out. Even the medical equipment can’t detect something wrong every time. I had no heart history, but somehow recognized what was happening and woke up my husband saying heart attack 911.

Missie Schley

I’ve had six. My first one, I didn’t know I was having one. I had shooting pains down my right arm. Yes, my right arm. And up into my jaw and ear. I have a herniated disc in my neck, and since I didn’t have any chest pain, I took a muscle relaxer and went to bed. The next day it started again so I went to the ER. The doc said there was blockage but some of it was dislodged or I would have died in my sleep. I had 5 more over the next couple years, but I knew what was happening for those ones.

I have since find out that women can have different symptoms than men and chest pain doesn’t even have to be involved. Severe jaw pain is common in women.

What did it feel like?

It feels like you are completely drained. My jaw hurt so bad I didn’t want to talk. I laid down on the floor and didn’t want to move at all. Shooting pains in my arm, and I couldn’t hold anything in that hand. It was the right side, not the left. That definitely threw me off.

Advice

That Women and Men don’t necessarily have the same symptoms. Lack of chest pain doesn’t mean you are not having a heart attack. Don’t wait to go the hospital if you have severe jaw pain, or if symptoms present on the right side of your body.

Bruce Lang

My first heart attack was October 97, I was 45 years old. We’re on vacation in Colorado Springs and on Pikes Peak, when I first experienced light-headedness and weakness I thought it was the 14,000 foot altitude’s effect on me and not affecting other visitors. The sightseeing afternoon continued to be difficult on me. I recalled commenting to my wife, if this was possibly a heart problem. Resting at times helped relieve the light pain and discomfort. 5 hours later it hit me like a ton of bricks, with all the classic full-blown symptoms. Quite a story here but not the room to tell it. I was immensely fortunate and heartfelt thankful that timing, in a town location, EMS a mile away and to everyone who in my almost final moments all worked to save me. A stent was placed in the left anterior descending AKA the Widowmaker.

Late May of 2013 a beautiful spring day, I had just finished cutting the grass not 20 minutes earlier. Waiting for my neighbor to arrive for our neighborhood walk, I was detailing the wheels in the garage on my Mustang, as I stood up a lightheadedness begin to overtake me with mild nausea and a tightening chest pain. A total onset symptom I recalled and knew all too well. I stepped into the house, grabbed a land phone and sat down. As pain intensified into my lower jaw within two minutes, I called 911 and stated I was having another heart attack. As I sat inside the front door waiting for EMS, doing very deep breath followed by a forced to help keep my heart beating. I was shaking and sweating uncontrollable, as if I just stepped out of the shower. Once again in my life they all arrived in a very short time of 5-6 minutes. In the hospital, a triple bypass was my only choice. Two days later it was performed. The first few days walking after surgery were on believably slow and very difficult, major recovery took about 6 to 8 weeks. My chest still has pain at times from post-surgery. But I’m here to tell about it and very thankful to everyone involved in Saving me once again.

What did it feel like? 

  • Lightheadedness and mild nausea.
  • Pressured pain in the chest radiating into the jaw into the arms.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Extreme weakness.
  • Profuse sweating.

Advice

Do your personal best to keep your heart healthy. A heart attack is a life-changing event you are better off not to experience. If you do have one and survive, do all you sensibly should be doing to keep your heart healthy.

Bradley Glende

Today is my one year anniversary of my heart attack, my symptoms started three weeks before it happened. I started to have this feeling of heartburn, it felt like a low key burning sensation from my chest up to my throat. It would go away and I thought it was something I ate. I also noticed after walking into work on those cold mornings, I was short of breath and my lunch pail felt like 50 lbs.

What did it feel like? 

At 4:30 in the morning I woke with this burning sensation in my chest. I went to the bathroom and noticed how pale I looked and had a cold sweat. I knew something wasn’t right. I woke my wife and told her we needed to get to a hospital. My wife and daughter drove me to the hospital, bad decision, we should’ve called 911. Time is critical and the responders could’ve alerted the hospital about my situation.

Advice

I say listen to your body, you know when something isn’t quite right and get to the Dr. on a regular basis. I think a lot of my symptoms were Angina, my heart attack could’ve been avoided if I only would of gone to the Doctor.

John Samuels

On Christmas morning 2016 after morning church service I had a cardiac arrest while I was napping. My wife heard me breath differently before I stopped breathing, at which time my heart stopped. My wife ( following instructions and encouragement from the 911 operator) performed CPR until EMS and my father arrived. I was defibrillated 4 times before my heart began functioning on the way to the hospital in the ambulance.

Attending an award ceremony next week for the city of Detroit 911 operator and EMS employees who brought me back to life. Best Christmas present ever!!

What did it feel like? 

I felt nothing, no tightness, pain, sweats, or unusual body pains. Died in my sleep.

Advice

Listen to your heart, listen to your body. Let it speak to you instead of yelling at you because you ignored it.

Dad’s heart attack

My Dad was a diabetic with copd. Each time he had a heart attack he never had pain. However, he always seemed to be having trouble breathing. One of his worst attacks was as a patient in the VA at Ann Arbor in 2003. I tried to tell his nurse what was going on based on his previous history. She said he wasn’t having a heart attack it was an anxiety attack and I was causing it therefore I had to leave. When I came back the next afternoon before my 12 hour shift at UH a first year resident was having him transferred to ICU. He was placed in a medically induced coma for the next week. His kidneys shut down and they put him on constant dialysis. He came out of it but he had massive heart damage. We had a few weeks with good talks that I treasure but in May he had another attack in the hospital and that one killed him. So even as an inpatient it took 24 hrs before someone realized he was having that first inpatient heart attack.

Mary Hensley

I was 38 years old when I experienced my first heart attack. Months prior, I had pain in my shoulder that radiated down my arm and went to a local E. R.. They found my blood pressure elevated but EKG was alright, so they brought the blood pressure down, observed me for a little while and let me go home. I went to primary care and was prescribed blood pressure medications, which I faithfully took for the next six months. I still experienced occasional pain in the left shoulder that radiated down the arm into my hand and sometimes into the jaw. Then one day I was awakened early with pain in the shoulder. I thought that I had slept on it wrong. Then the pain began to radiate down my arm again as well as pain in the jaw. Shortly thereafter, I started to feel sweaty and that was soon followed by nausea. I finally went to the ER at Henry Ford Main Campus .A young male nurse examined me in triage and thought he heard an arrhythmia. He sent me back immediately and I was given an EKG where it was apparent that I was having a heart attack. That was 23 years ago. I am now 60 years old. Since that first heart attack, I have had a triple bypass, went into Congestive Heart Failure and received not one but two heart transplants both in 2000.

What did it feel like?

Pain in the shoulder, that radiates from the jaw down the arm and into the fingers, along with sweating and nausea. It is not a sharp pain but a persistent dull ache deep in the body.

Advice

Just because you are a young woman, do not discount that the pain or sensation that you are feeling cannot be your heart. It very well might be. If it doubt, get checked out. Better to hear that it is a false alarm or nothing to worry about then let it go and cause permanent damage to your heat.

Dell Maples

For two months I was having pain in my left arm. Which I ignored. One day my husband and I were out and I started sweating, my arm felt heavy and I was nauseated. That was the first one.

What did it feel like? 

Mine felt like a really bad hot flash at first.

Advice 

I tell people to never ignore the warning signs.

Debbie Hunter

I’m a female and I was 51 when I experienced my heart attack. I was preparing for a yard sale with my daughter. My back and shoulders were in pain and the worst was my throat. It felt like the back of my throat was sooo cold. I told my daughter I just didn’t feel right. I was going to lay down for a bit. Thankfully she followed me into the house and insisted on calling 911 and my husband. EMS told my husband it didn’t seem to be my heart but when they got me to the hospital I was told I was having a heart attack. Shortness of breath and back pain were worse by this time. I know have 2 stents and feeling good but always taking all discomfort very seriously. Women are not aware of the different signs for us.

What did it feel like? 

Back and shoulder pain, never had chest pain. Mouth and jaw pain, very painful and uncomfortable.

Advice

I try to explain to women to take all unfamiliar discomfort seriously.

Antonietta Allen

August 20th 2003,was going about my day a bit stressed, had a strange sensation in my jaw, thought I might need dental work, but no pain, got to work and I was in a bad mood unusual for me,had heartburn ( but had heartburn for about a week) decided not to take the stairs, took the elevator, co workers asking if I was ok as I was very pale almost grey in color,they called an ambulance ,get to the hospital, the doctors saying they did not think it was a heart attack ( HEART ATTACK WHAT) but they were wrong it was, they said I had NO symptoms of a heart attack.

What did it feel like? 

My only symptoms were being angry, and a weird sensation (no pain) in my jaw.

Advice 

Diet, exercise, and a heart attack gives you pain in the chest like an elephant sitting on you and pain in your arm, usually left … not for me.

Lucy Munoz

It started as heartburn. Drank Vernors, had antacids. Time passed no relief of heartburn, then, all of a sudden, I started to feel a tingling off my left shoulder starting to go half way down my arm. That’s when I called my son to come take me to hospital. Had 4 stints placed. My early sign was, 2 weeks before, I was in the basement, started up steps, lost my breath and fell down stairs … was very lightheaded.

Advice 

If you feel anything strange new that you never felt before go to the doctors quickly.

Mike H.

I had been having symptoms that I dismissed as an annoyance. As soon as I sat down they went away. These symptoms were chest tightness and lower jaw pain. Then one day I had the symptoms again and when I sat down they didn’t go away this time. My chest and back felt like I had a tourniquet that kept getting tighter and tighter. I also had shortness of breath this time. I finally admitted to myself that I was having a heart attack. The first thing I did was chew a 325 aspirin (which my doctors said saved my life). Then my wife drove me to the hospital. I had 2 stents put into the front of my heart and had 2 stents put into the back of my heart. It has been 18 months since my heart attack and I am feeling great.

Advice 

I tell everyone to pay attention to their symptoms and do not dismiss them like I did.

Christina Taylor

I will NEVER forget having a heart attack. It still sounds strange saying out loud. It was just after my 38th birthday (11.3) on 11.27.2008. I had no warning, at least I didn’t “see” one. I’m one who really pays attention to what my body tells me. My husband and I went out to dinner the night before; I couldn’t eat which is shocking for my appetite! I had what felt like the onset of heartburn. I never get heartburn. Went home and was eating Tum’s like mints. Decided to lie down and go to bed early. Got up the next morning still feeling dragged out and the subtle burning in my esophagus was still looming. No strength for a shower, I just went downstairs and slunk into the couch and made mental assessment of what I felt. It took about 20 minutes; I sweated thru my sweatsuit like someone had hosed me down and couldn’t summon the strength to yell at my husband to call for help. He was on a work call. I said to myself “omg, I am having a heart attack.”

HOW is this possible??! But it was.I had no energy but when my husband saw me and asked how I was doing I couldn’t speak, I ask just asked for water and muttered “I need you to call 911.” He got off the phone and looked me over and was not encouraged! I again with a quiet voice said “I need to go to hospital.” He called for help. A teamful of EMS showed up and asked a million questions. They did an ekg that was clean. This caused them to believe it was just heartburn. All the way to Henry Ford in Clinton Township, I kept INSISTING it was not heartburn! Once in the ER there was still some doubt about my condition. I demanded over and over they take another EKG.

FINALLY one staff member decided another ekg was a good idea as enough time had passed; after the results were in about 40 doctors, nurses and other staff came running from all corners. I was administered a medication that it later turned out I was allergic to. My gurney was raced to surgery where the stents procedure was then performed. The staff made mention of my younger age for a heart attack. It was discovered it was a heredity situation due to my family history. I spent five days in hospital because my surgery scar wasn’t healing properly. Turned out they administered a med in the ER that I was allergic so I was forced to have a blood transfusion! After five days of blood transfusion, having medical staff come in and talk to me about my “young age”, etc.

Doctors told me that since 9/11 the age of heart attack sufferers had dropped dramatically. Folks from as a young as 21 were coming in for stents due to the stress of the economy.

What did it feel like? 

My single symptom was feeling like a blow torch was lit between my breasts. It was extremely painful!! It started subtle but rose up like it was coming thru my throat.Sweating profusely and my skin was grey. To this day any time I feel the smallest discomfort of heartburn anything, I’m very tuned in to the feeling and get paranoid. I never wanna go thru that ever again!!

Advice 

I explain my hereditary history and if this can happen to me, ie. non smoker, eat healthy, work out, etc. it can happen to anyone. Just because your not clutching your chest and falling over, don’t ignore symptoms.

Cathie Scalzo

I was sitting at my desk at work, turned around in my chair and was talking to a co-worker. As the conversation ended, I was laughing and turned back around in my chair.

What did it feel like? 

I felt a great deal of pressure around my rib cage. It felt like a huge rubber band squeezing the breath out of me. I immediately panicked, thinking, OMG, am I having a heart attack? But I waited for a short while and the pressure went away. I worked in a research clinic and had 5 doctors within feet of me. I was afraid to say anything because everyone was very busy and I didn’t want to take up their time, unnecessarily. Two days later, the same intense pressure woke me up out of a sound sleep. I jolted upright and was afraid to go back to sleep because I thought, if it IS a heart attack, I don’t want to die in my sleep. I had a routine Dr. appt. in a few days and decided I would tell the doctor then. When I was in the doctor’s office, now 5 days after the initial heart attack, I was ready to leave when, almost as an after-thought I said, “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, I had a lot of pressure in my chest a couple times last week.” He jumped up from his desk and called the nurse in to perform an EKG “stat”. When he read the EKG, he said, “You’ve had a heart attack. You have an irregular heartbeat that didn’t exist at your last physical.” He gave me the name of a cardiologist and his nurse called to make an appointment for me that evening.”

Advice 

Whatever you’re doing that is not heart-healthy, is it really so important to you that it’s worth your life? Seriously?

Jackie Smerecki

I was 36 years old. This is 1986. Women, especially young women were’t supposed to have heart problems. Continued to have problems,indigestion, doctors had told me. Until 10 years later, I had one of the first angioplasties done. I am now 67 someone finally listened.

What did it feel like? 

Didn’t feel pain, just a FUNNY feeling. You know your own body and I just recognized something wasn’t right.

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