Heart attack symptoms: How to tell the difference between a panic attack and heart attack

Fitness & Health:

Although both can take your breath away, a heart attack and panic attack have two very different outcomes. A panic attack may feel as though you’re suffocating, but a heart attack truly is a life-threatening event.

The NHS explained a heart attack occurs when blood supply to the heart muscle is “suddenly interrupted”.

When this happens, the muscle may “begin to die” and symptoms of a heart attack can vary.

For example, a person who suffers from an overwhelming sense of anxiety – akin to a panic attack – could be having a heart attack.


In fact, many symptoms of a panic attack and heart attack do overlap. To illustrate, both of the conditions can lead to:

  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness

With this in mind, how can you tell the difference between the two conditions?

Additional symptoms associated with a heart attack include chest pain travelling from the chest to another body part.

Examples include chest pain travelling to the left arm, jaw, neck, back and tummy.

“Paramedics would rather be called out to find an honest mistake has been made than be too late to save a person’s life,” assured the national health body.

Meanwhile, people suffering from a panic attack may experience chills and hot flushes.

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Other signs of a panic attack include: a racing heartbeat, shaky limbs, a choking sensation, pins and needles, a dry mouth and ringing in the ears.

During a panic attack, “you get a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms”, explained the NHS.

Allow it to wash over you while you “breathe slowly and deeply” – the attack will pass.

Remember, “it’s not life-threatening” and try to “focus on positive, peaceful and relaxing images”.

To help prevent a further attack, it’s a good idea to “do regular physical exercise to reduce stress and tension”.

Reading a self-help book on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may also be useful.

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