Male Pre-Heart Attack Symptoms

What is a heart attack?

heart attack can be a frightening experience. However, it is important to acknowledge that tens of thousands of people have survived heart attacks.1;2 Although symptoms of a heart attack tend to be mostly similar between men and women, men are twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to women.3

Heart attacks occur when the blood flow to the heart is severely reduced or blocked and also called a myocardial infarction. A heart attack is not a cardiac arrest, these two terms are often thought of as synonymous but they are not. A heart attack refers to when the coronary arteries become blocked, temporarily slowing the blood flow to the heart, and a sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating unexpectedly or malfunctions. However, a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest - an individual experiencing a heart attack may be at risk of developing an abnormal heart rhythm which can lead to heart damage and heart failure. This is why it is important to act quickly when you think you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. 

Pre-heart attack warning signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person. Nonetheless, there are several pre-heart attack warning signs that you can look out for and recognise so as to be able to act on the early warning signs, which include the following:1 

  • Most notably a sudden pain, or tightness in your chest which can feel like a persistent squeezing or aching. 
  • Pain or discomfort in your shoulder, arm, back or neck which can sometimes spread to your jaw and upper stomach. 
  • Fatigue and lethargy are often accompanied by sudden dizziness. 
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Feeling sick and having heartburn. 
  • Cold sweat.

Note that it is possible to have a silent heart attack. A silent heart attack refers to a heart attack that presents with few if any, symptoms usually associated with a heart attack. For example, those who have had a silent heart attack may not experience chest pain or shortness of breath. Those who have had a silent heart attack may, however, have thought to be just experiencing heartburn, or strained chest muscles. It is important to be vigilant, a silent heart attack, like any heart attack, does also involve a reduced blood flow to the heart which can cause damage to the heart muscle and therefore requires medical attention.4 

Differences between males and females

There are some differences in signs and symptoms of a heart attack for males and females. A heart attack does not always feel or look the same for everyone, more specifically it may not look the same for women and men.2 However, it is important to remember that there are no major differences in the key heart attack symptoms, i.e. a sudden pain in the chest area. According to the British heart foundation, 93% of both sexes report chest pain as a symptom of their heart attack. A similar percentage also reported pain that spread down their left arm. Women are more likely to experience a wider range of symptoms some of which may not point directly to a heart attack, for example, women are more likely to experience symptoms such as indigestion, fainting, and extreme fatigue than men. 

What are the “Male-Only” symptoms?

Both men and women can experience a range of symptoms which can be associated with a heart attack, there aren’t any specific “male-only” symptoms as it were. However, symptoms reported in males tend to stick to the four major symptoms: 

  • A pain in the chest which can feel like a squeezing pressure. 
  • Associated back, jaw and neck pain. 
  • Nausea with or without vomiting. 
  • Shortness of breath. 

When to contact your Doctor

Prompt treatment is needed to prevent a heart attack causing serious complications. Therefore, it is important to take the time to learn the signs of a heart attack and notice them as quickly and as early as possible so as to know when to seek medical attention. You should call 999 whenever you notice any symptoms that could be caused by a heart attack. However, the most notable sign to look out for is a sudden and persistent discomfort or pain in your chest. This is one of the most common signs of a heart attack. If you or a loved one is experiencing a sudden pain in your chest it is advised to call 999 immediately. 

Reducing the risk of a heart attack

The American Heart Association offers these lifestyle changes to prevent or reduce the risk of having a heart attack. For example, quitting smoking significantly reduces your chances of a heart attack, as does focusing on good nutrition and a healthy diet in aims to reduce your blood pressure - which also helps prevent cardiovascular diseases. Partaking in regular physical activity also promotes good heart health. 

A more extensive list includes: 

  • Taking steps to lower your blood cholesterol, this can be done by improving your diet. 
  • Reducing stress. 
  • And lowering your alcohol intake. 


Heart attacks affect both men and women. Although symptoms can differ between the sexes and signs of a heart attack can manifest themselves in different ways for women and men. However, men usually experience the more common symptoms associated with a heart attack. 

With cardiovascular disease and heart attacks it is of interest to know your risks and take care of your health and heart health ingeneral, some factors such as age, sex, family history cannot be changed but there are precautions and lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of a heart attack. However, if you or someone you’re with is experiencing symptoms that could be a heart attack it is important not to ignore them and call 999 just in case, every minute count.


  1. Fang J, Luncheon C, Ayala C, Odom E, Loustalot F. Awareness of Heart Attack Symptoms and Response Among Adults — United States, 2008, 2014, and 2017. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2019;68(5):101-106.
  2. Khamis R, Ammari T, Mikhail G. Gender differences in coronary heart disease. Heart. 2016;102(14):1142-1149.
  3. Weidner G. Why Do Men Get More Heart Disease Than Women? An International Perspective. Journal of American College Health. 2000;48(6):291-294.
  4. Lim G. Silent myocardial infarction increases the risk of heart failure. Nature Reviews Cardiology. 2018;15(3):136-136.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Imogen Scott

Postgraduate Degree, Neuroscience, Goldsmiths, University of London

Imogen Scott, based in London, is deeply rooted in mental health and healthcare. Serving as an Account Executive at Silver Buck, she emphasizes digital health innovations. Previously, she showcased her commitment as a Medical Writer Intern at Klarity and supported students with special needs at Charlton Park Academy. With a Bachelor's in Psychology and an ongoing Neuroscience postgrad from Goldsmiths, Imogen is a blend of academic and professional passion in health.

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