Did you know that feeling nauseous and breaking out in a sweat can be warning signs you’re experiencing a heart attack? It’s not just about chest pain. Knowing how to spot one could save a life.

Our bodies are all different so the alarms they sound when a heart attack is about to happen or is happening will vary. Women might even experience different symptoms.

We’ve rounded up the Heart Foundation’s advice about what a heart attacks feels like, the symptoms to look out for and when to call for help. 

It’s important to note, heart attacks are “not always sudden or severe”.

“Many start slowly with only mild pain or discomfort. Some people do not get chest pain at all, only discomfort in other parts of their upper body,” the Heart Foundation said.

In terms of chest pain, heart attack sufferers have described it as a “heaviness, tightness or pressure” across their chest.

But remember, “this discomfort could spread to other parts of the body”. Someone having a heart attack might feel “discomfort in their arms, shoulders, neck, jaw or back”.

“Although chest pain or discomfort are common symptoms of a heart attack, some people will not experience chest pain at all, while others will experience only mild chest pain or discomfort.”

Other warning signs include:

  • Feeling short of breath
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Experiencing a cold sweat
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed.

Some survivors also “described feeling generally unwell or not quite right”.

“Others may experience one symptom, while some experience a combination,” the Heart Foundation said.

“They can come on suddenly or develop over minutes and get progressively worse. Symptoms usually last for at least 10 minutes.”

Call for help. A false alarm doesn’t matter


About 55,000 people suffer heart attacks every year in Australia and according to the Heart Foundation, in about 9,000 of those cases, the attack is fatal.

“Too many people die from a heart attack because they take too long to call an ambulance,” the Heart Foundation said.

When someone suffering a heart attack receives medical help quickly, the chance of survival is increased, so too is the opportunity to minimise damage to the heart organ.

The advice is, if you are experiencing the symptoms listed above, call triple-0.

Symptoms of a heart attack usually last for 10 minutes. If you’ve been feeling them for that period of time, don’t delay in calling for assistance.

For more information, fact sheets to keep at home or pass to your friends and to hear heart attack survivors describe their symptoms, visit The Heart Foundation’s dedicated page.

A heart attack is an emergency, if you’re experiencing the symptoms described here, call 000