Skip to content

    Heart Disease Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    His Guide to a Heart Attack: Symptoms in Men


    WebMD Feature

    In the movies, you never doubt when a man's having a heart attack. He clutches his chest, screams, or moans, and falls to the ground. If he's lucky, help is on its way.

    In real life, the signs aren't always so clear. Some people do experience Hollywood-type symptoms, says Mohamud Daya, MD, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. But others don’t. “Some people say they just feel uneasy discomfort or vague discomfort, not pain that really hurts. Sometimes it feels more like heaviness or pressure,” Daya explains.

    Recommended Related to Heart Disease

    The Post-Quadruple-Bypass Workout

    Lynn Swassing was just 48 years old, the mother of two sons in high school and one daughter in college, when she had a heart attack in 1987. She underwent quadruple bypass surgery and was hospitalized for nearly six weeks. Every single day, at some point, the hospital had an exercise specialist at the foot of my bed, she recalls. They told me, if you don't get active, you won't make it. No way,was Swassing's first thought. The full-time mom had never been on a treadmill in her life, and she...

    Read the The Post-Quadruple-Bypass Workout article > >

    Doctors say, in general, the three most commonly reported symptoms when men have a heart attack are:

    No Two Heart Attacks the Same

    “Some chest symptoms almost invariably accompany a heart attack, but everyone experiences it a little bit differently,” says Kristin Newby, MD, a cardiologist at the Duke Heart Center in Durham, NC. “Describing it as pain or pressure or tightness or burning or any of those symptoms are probably all reflecting each individual’s perception of the same thing.”

    Chest pain or discomfort can come on fast or slow. Symptoms can come and go or last for more than a few minutes. In a study published in the American Journal of Critical Care in 2008, men reported more severe chest pain than women. They were also more likely to say their symptoms were brought on by exertion.

    However, that same study found that 10 percent of men experienced no chest pain at all. And diabetics can have heart attacks without feeling pain. It’s also possible to experience a cluster of other symptoms. While less common than chest pain, these can include:

    • Discomfort or pain in other areas, such as one or both arms, the neck, jaw, back, or stomach
    • Shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea, or sweating
    • Abdominal discomfort that may feel like heartburn

    “You have a spectrum of presentations. We tend to make medicine black and white,” Daya says. "It really isn’t. People can have minor symptoms or very major symptoms. That’s the challenge.”

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    x-ray of human heart
    A visual guide.
    atrial fibrillation
    Symptoms and causes.
     
    heart rate graph
    10 things to never do.
    heart rate
    Get the facts.
     
    empty football helmet
    Article
    red wine
    Video
     
    eating blueberries
    Article
    Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
    Slideshow
     
    Inside A Heart Attack
    SLIDESHOW
    Omega 3 Sources
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Salt Shockers
    SLIDESHOW
    lowering blood pressure
    SLIDESHOW