Doctors' Notes

Top 5 Heart Attack Signs You Might Miss

Our physician experts share the commonly missed signs of heart attack that you should know. Don't ignore these subtle symptoms of heart damage.
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Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


As we wrap up American Heart Month 2014, it’s important to know the subtle signs of heart attack that often go ignored.  Most relate heart attacks to chest pain, but there are many groups that never have the “typical” symptoms of heart attack.  Young or old, male or female, don’t simply rely on chest pain to signal a heart attack–know all of the signs!

Review these subtle heart attack signs and don’t let them catch YOU off guard:

#1. Upset Stomach: Ranging from indigestion to belching, nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea can be one of the first signs that there is trouble with the heart.  People who are actively having a heart attack also sometimes report feeling aches in the upper abdominal region. This often occurs when a blood vessel is blocked at the bottom of the heart.

#2. Jaw/Neck/Shoulder Pain: An intermittent pain between the shoulder blades or traveling up the arm to the jaw and/or ear regions is known to be a symptom of heart attack. The pain may be dull and achy, or there may simply be a sensation of tightness that moves upward.  Don’t ignore this common sign of heart damage.

#3. Hiccups: Believe it or not, persistent or intractable hiccups just might be one of the first signs of heart muscle damage or heart attack.  This is a little known fact about those pesky hiccups, so you definitely want to notify your doctor if you are having significant trouble.  This generally equates to hiccups for several days or weeks that just won’t seem to go away.

#4. Fatigue: Some report an unusual amount of fatigue for weeks leading up to their heart attack.  Don’t assume fatigue is simply due to lack of sleep.  Sometimes fatigue is one of the first signs that something more serious is going on in the body.  Make sure you visit your doctor if you are feeling run down.

#5. Shortness of Breath: Feeling winded with tasks that you are normally able to do like climbing stairs, light housework, or walking up the driveway to check the mail are often telltale signs that heart damage is taking place.  In one study, roughly half of all women reported a feeling of breathlessness leading up to their heart attack.

While these symptoms aren’t always a sign of heart attack, they may be signaling that a visit to your doctor is in order.  If you experience any signs or symptoms out of the ordinary, make sure to contact your doctor right away so you don’t miss a thing! 

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazine and host the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!