Heart attack symptoms: How to recognize and treat heart attack

Heart attack symptoms may point on blood clot or some kind of a blockage in the coronary arteries. It can prevent blood flow through the heart which can lead to chest pain and damage the cardiac muscle.

The damage is irreversible, if the blood flow to the heart muscle isn't restored within 20 to 40 minutes.

Some people die 12-48 hours after heart attack because the heart muscle tissue continues to deteriorate which makes the heart attack complete. This causes scar tissue to form where heart muscle has died.

Causes of heart attack include smoking, unhealthy lifestyle, diabetes, stress and high blood pressure. However, the main cause seems to be elevated cholesterol which increases the risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is basically a stepping stone before heart attack.


  • Chest pain is the most common symptom. It is described as pain, fullness or squeezing sensation in the chest area. It can also spread to shoulders, upper abdomen or neck.
  • Arm, upper back and jaw pain or headache. Arm pain, most of the times, refers to left arm pain but it can be experienced in either arm.
  • Shortness of breath. Although it is a common symptom of lung condition it is also one of the heart attack symptoms.
  • Lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or vomiting.
  • Anxiety, nervousness or feeling cold accompanied with a pale skin.
  • Irregular or increased heart rate
  • NOTE: In 25 % of the cases there are no symptoms which is especially common among people with diabetes. Also, only some of these symptoms occur during a heart attack. It all depends on a individual. Sometimes symptoms can come and go, only to return later.


    Besides heart attack symptoms, cardiac arrest is diagnosed with the use of electrocardiogram(ECG) and blood tests that measure the levels of cardiac enzymes such as creatine phosphokinase(CPK) and troponin. In the case of heart attack, these enzymes are usually elevated. They tell the doctors how severe is the damage of the heart muscle. The higher the levels of these enzymes, the greater cardiac muscle damage.

    Treatment of heart attack includes thrombolytic agents or clot busters which are used to break the clot, thereby restoring blood flow to the heart muscle. Other treatments include blood thinning medications and antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin and heparin. Bypass surgery and coronary angioplasty are also on the list of possible treatments.

    Prognosis depends on severity and the amount of damage inflicted to the heart muscle. Level of damage will help determine when individual can return to its regular activities as well as how much activity can he or she preforme, following recovery.


    The sooner you recognize heart attack symptoms and look for help, the less damage your heart will have to endure. Speed of intervention is crucial, if you want to avoid more serious complications and even death.

    However, it is better to avoid heart attack then having to deal with one. So, eat healthy and workout regulary.

    Also, hormones play a big role in heart attack. High estrogen can lead to blood clots since it affects proteins in the blood responsible for triggering coagulation. On the other hand, progesterone normalises blood clotting mechanisms.

    This hormonal effect has influence on men and women. However, it is more apparent in women since they produce higher quantities of these hormones.

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