Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Recognizing Heart Attack, Stroke, and Angina

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Robert J Bryg, MD

Doctors call it the "Hollywood heart attack": a middle-aged man breaks into a cold sweat, grimaces, and clutches his chest-just like in the movies. Trouble is, in real life, heart attack symptoms don't always announce themselves so dramatically. More often they are insidious and puzzling, such as unexplained fatigue or abdominal discomfort, and many people wait for hours before seeking help.

Big mistake, doctors tell WebMD. The ability to quickly spot signs of heart attack, angina, and stroke can be life-saving. The sooner you call 911, the faster you can get to an emergency room for treatment. Early treatment not only minimizes heart- and brain-tissue damage, it can save your life.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

Do You Know Which Symptoms Signal a Heart Attack in Women?

Most women know the symptoms of a heart attack -- squeezing chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea. But as it turns out, these symptoms are more typical for males. Female heart attacks can be quite different -- and it’s important for all women to learn the warning signs. Rhonda Monroe's story is a cautionary tale. She was mystified when strong pain struck her left breast and left arm. Monroe, who was a 36-year-old mother of three, didn’t know it at the time, but she was having early symptoms...

Read the Do You Know Which Symptoms Signal a Heart Attack in Women? article > >

But most people delay. the American Heart Association When it comes to medical emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes, "The weak link in the chain of events leading to prompt and effective treatment is patient delay in seeking care," according to a statement by the American Heart Association published in Circulation. The result? "Only a minority of eligible patients receive optimally timed treatment."

Symptoms of Heart Attack: Why Do People Wait?

Often, people expect the Hollywood heart attack, so they may write off unfamiliar heart attack symptoms. For example, they may blame abdominal discomfort on indigestion. Women may also experience very different symptoms than men do, and fail to recognize them as signs of a heart attack.

"With some symptoms, we have a natural tendency to not act on them in the hope that they'll just go away," says Mohamud Daya, MD, MS, an associate professor of emergency services at Oregon Health & Science University.

Patients also delay because they fear making a fuss or feeling embarrassed if symptoms turn out to be a false alarm, experts say.

Heart Attack Symptoms: What to Watch Out for

During a heart attack, blood flow to heart muscle is reduced or cut off, often because a blood clot blocks an artery. When heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood, it can die.

Ideally, treatment to restore blood flow, such as angioplasty or clot-dissolving drugs, should begin within 1 hour after symptoms begin, the AHA says. The faster you can get to the emergency room, the better your chance of survival. And yet, one study found that half of people with heart attack symptoms delayed seeking help for more than 4 hours.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure