(800) 973-1540

How to Tell if Someone Is Having a Heart Attack

Five heart attack symptoms to watch for and how to respond

By , Caring.com senior editor
94% helpful
emergency

Quick summary

Although you're probably familiar with the classic heart attack scenario from movies and TV, most people don't just clutch their chests and fall to the ground. Heart attacks usually start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort, or even more subtle flu-like symptoms. Heart attack symptoms can be subtle, and it's not always easy to tell what's happening. But if someone is having a heart attack, every second counts: There's a limited window of time before heart muscle is permanently damaged. Delaying treatment also increases the risk of sudden death from an irregular heart rhythm.

To give someone the best possible chance of recovery, it's wise to familiarize yourself with the warning signs of a heart attack. Remember that all heart attacks are not equal: Even if you've seen someone have a heart attack before, a second heart attack or a heart attack in someone else might not have the same symptoms.