A myocardial infarction — also known as a heart attack — occurs when the flow of oxygenated blood to a portion of the heart through one or more of the coronary arteries becomes blocked for an extended period of time. These blockages starve the heart of oxygen, causing cardiac ischemia. If this condition persists too long, heart tissue will begin to die in areas connected to the blocked artery, which is called myocardial infarction — literally “death of heart muscle.” At Tampa General Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute, we provide world-class care for patients who are experiencing heart attacks.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Symptoms vary for each myocardial infarction patient. While 25% of all heart attack victims report no symptoms, many experience some or all of the following symptoms over a span of several hours:

  • A feeling in the arms or chest of pain, tightness, pressure or a squeezing feeling that spreads to the back, neck, jaw and upper stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Nausea, heartburn, indigestion or abdominal pain
  • Fatigue

If symptoms of a myocardial infarction are present, it is critical to seek medical attention immediately. Complications of a heart attack include heart failure, arrhythmias, heart rupture and valve problems. Heart attacks can be fatal and are the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. One in four deaths every year can be attributed to a heart attack. Medications used for treatment include aspirin, thrombolytics and antiplatelet agents. A doctor may also perform a coronary angioplasty and stenting procedure or coronary artery bypass surgery, both of which help open the blocked arteries and restore blood flow to the heart.

Heart Attack Symptoms: Men vs. Women

While heart attacks can affect both men and women, symptoms may differ between the genders. In fact, some women may not even think they are having a heart attack due to how the symptoms manifest differently than in men.

Males often experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, cold sweats and tiredness, while women’s heart attack symptoms can be subtler—females may experience breathlessness, pain in areas other than the chest, nausea or vomiting and extreme fatigue. It's important to note that women can also experience chest pain and other “classic” heart attack symptoms. However, they're more likely to experience additional symptoms or have symptoms that are not primarily centered around chest discomfort.

These variations in heart attack symptoms can be attributed to differences in how men and women's bodies respond to coronary artery disease. Women often have smaller coronary arteries, and their heart attacks may involve a different type of plaque buildup. Additionally, hormonal factors, especially during menopause, can play a role in these differences.

Whether you're a man or a woman, if you suspect you're having a heart attack, it's crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Don't delay or downplay your symptoms. Call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room right away.

Nationally Recognized Heart Attack Care

At Tampa General Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute, our specialists can provide treatment for cardiac conditions like heart attack, heart failure and heart disease. With 77,000 square feet of dedicated space, our institute has six cardiac catheterization laboratories, eight cardiac surgery rooms (plus one hybrid room) and seven interventional radiology suites.

Because of our commitment to excellent care, U.S. News & World Report has recognized Tampa General Hospital as One of the Nation's Best Hospitals for Heart & Vascular Care and High Performing Hospital for Heart Attack treatment for 2024-25.

Contact us today or call (813) 844-3900 to become a patient or visit our emergency room right away if you think you might be experiencing a heart attack.