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What does it feel like to experience a heart attack?

Derek Wilson

Elite Member
Oct 28, 2017
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Get Shredded!
From the perspective of a doc who has worked on a coronary care unit: these are the classical symptoms you can find in all textbooks (we now know that in women the symptoms can be a lot more vague, in some only feeling a bit short of breath ):

  1. have a typical painful, cramping, oppressive feeling across the chest, as if it a was in a vise
  2. typically the pain radiates to the left arm, the neck, the back between the shoulder blades (usually in inferior wall infarction)
  3. people typically sweat, have wide pupils, a fast pulse, symptoms of high adrenalin levels
  4. they very often are nauseous
Males can have atypical symptoms too: my male cousin when around 64 yo while out dining with friends on a Saturday evening inexplicably felt nauseous, vaguely unwell, thought ?indigestion?, so went home. Monday morning went to see his GP, who didn?t understand it, send him to the local ED, where in spite of normal echographic findings they insisted it was his (normal looking!) gallbladder, after one night send him home with an appointment for laparoscopic gallbladder removal. Nobody bothered to make an ECG. By chance his very good friend, who was a radiologist doc at the same hospital, noticed his name, looked at the routine chest X-ray and saw an enlarged heart, totally not fitting anything they though they knew about him, so bypassing all other docs arranged for their cardiologist to see my cousin soonest, the cardiologist on the routine ECG diagnosed a one week old myocardial infarction. All went well, of course he cancelled his gallbladder surgery, in spite of the surgeon still insisting that his gallbladder really needed to be removed?. This was in a very large regional teaching hospital, the biggest one in the whole province, having lots of good caring medical specialists, but the hospital apparently was less well organized, especially their surgical department. Even my non doc wife when she first heard of the story immediately though of a missed heart attack.