Could You Spot a Pre Heart Attack?

Could You Spot a Pre Heart Attack?

Last update: 29 May, 2015

We all like to think that we could spot a genuine and sudden heart attack. If and when it actually occurs, the prompt actions of friends and family really can mean the difference between life and death.

If you are with someone who shows signs of the following symptoms, call an ambulance immediately:

  • Chest pain
  • Pain in other parts of the body
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
  • An overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
  • Coughing or wheezing.

The classic chest pain that occurs during a heart attack can feel like pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of your chest, with pain is travelling from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and abdomen.

A pre-heart attack or angina is a less serious situation but is one that you should be able to recognise and that you should talk to your doctor about.

So, what exactly is a pre heart attack? It can be described as a maladjustment in the proper functioning of the cardiac muscle, called the myocardia.

The affected muscle fails to receive an adequate supply of oxygen because its blood flow is disrupted in some way. This causes the causes pain in the chest. The chest pain can happen frequently and sharply, which can be a sign that there is a coronary artery disease developing. You must see a doctor about this. You’ll probably get referred to a heart specialist, or “cardiologist”.

Symptoms of a pre heart attack

Here are some common symptoms that could be indicative of a pre heart attack:

  • Chest pain or malaise
  • A strong pain in the arms, neck, jaw, shoulders, or back
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness

The symptoms are very similar to a heart attack but tend to be less severe. People that have suffered a pre heart attack describe a feeling of a strong pressure in the chest like a heavy weight was pressing down on them.


Pre heart attack symptoms in women

The female physiology is very different to that of the male and this can affect the symptoms of a pre heart attack. Women often do not feel pressure or a feeling of weight, but only stabbing pain, nausea, difficulty breathing, or stomach pain, which is why it can be confused with other health problems such as a stomach upset. In some cases this has delayed a proper diagnosis and led to treatment being started too late.

How serious is a pre heart attack?

There is no one answer to this question as all pre heart attack symptoms are different. The common rule is that you most always get the symptoms checked out by a doctor and you will probably require further cardiac tests to find out exactly what is going on.

You may have one of several heart conditions, which may require treatment with medication or surgical procedures. It is important that you are fully informed about your condition so that you can take the appropriate lifestyle changes.


There are many potential treatments for cardiac issues and here is just a small selection:

  • Consuming vasodilators – they control blood pressure and will make your blood vessels relax. This improves the blood flow.
  • Dietary changes – you may be asked to switch to a diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and avoiding all kinds of fatty foods.
  • Lifestyle changes – you may need to start carrying out regular moderate exercise, like taking walks and riding bikes. This type of exercise is a huge help in increasing blood flow to the cardiac muscle. You also need to avoid stress.

Important message

Some people experience a pre heart attack (chest pain) when they carry out moderate exercise, which then stops when they rest. This is NOT the same as a heart attack – which is not relieved by resting and which lasts longer.


If you are EVER in doubt about cardiac symptoms in yourself or a member of your family you should always see a doctor as soon as possible. If symptoms are severe you should call 999.