Symptoms of Heart Disease, Heart Attack, and Stroke

Heart Disease

Heart disease is termed “a silent threat” because many people do not experience symptoms until a heart attack or stroke occurs. Cardiovascular symptoms that require immediate emergency medical attention include chest pain, shortness of breath, pain or numbness in your arms or legs, confusion, loss of consciousness, and blurred vision.

Heart Attack

A heart attack is a life and death medical emergency. You should call the emergency medical services in your area, usually 911, if you or someone else experiences one or more signs of a heart attack. A heart attack can be fatal, and receiving emergency medical treatment as soon as possible is vital for sustaining life. The more time that passes before a person receives emergency treatment, the more likely a person is to experience permanent heart damage or death.

Some heart attacks occur suddenly and intensely. Others may start out slowly. A heart attack can cause chest pain, pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain that lasts for more than a few minutes. The chest discomfort may come and go. It may feel like you have bad indigestion, a tight band around your chest, or that “an elephant is sitting on your chest.” You may experience pain that radiates to your jaws, neck, shoulder, teeth, arms, back, or abdomen. A heart attack can cause shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, nausea, and a cold sweat.

Women and men may experience different symptoms of a heart attack. For both men and women, chest discomfort is the most common symptom of a heart attack. However, women are more likely than men to experience back or jaw pain, overwhelming fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath.


A stroke is a medical emergency. You should call the emergency medical service provider in your area, usually 911, for ambulance transport to a hospital emergency room. It is important that you receive treatment immediately after you start experiencing the symptoms of a stroke – ideally within the first three hours of when your symptoms began. You should not ignore your condition if some of your symptoms go away—you should still seek immediate emergency medical treatment. Doctors can provide treatments to reduce disability and save lives.

The symptoms of a stroke begin suddenly. The symptoms may be more severe at the beginning of a stroke. The symptoms may get continually worse or fluctuate for the first couple of days. Some symptoms may go away; however, you should not ignore the signs of a stroke even if your symptoms go away. A stroke is considered complete when the symptoms stop getting worse.

You may experience one or more symptoms. You may have a severe headache. One side of your body or one part of your body— the face, an arm or a leg may feel week or paralyzed. The affected body parts may feel numb or tingly. It may be hard to walk. You may lose your balance or coordination. It may feel like the room is spinning, and you may feel dizzy. You may feel tired all of the time. A stroke can also cause a person to lose consciousness.

You may experience uncontrollable eye movements, changes in vision, such as double vision, blurred vision, or loss of vision. Your eyelids may droop. You may drool and have difficulty swallowing.

You may have trouble thinking and feel confused. You may have difficulty remembering things that you could before. It may be difficult to understand what others are saying, and you may have problems talking. A stroke can cause personality and behavioral changes. You may feel depressed, agitated, or apathetic.

Symptoms of a TIA are similar to that of a stroke. They may include one or more of the symptoms described above. However, the symptoms of a TIA last less than 24 hours.


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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit