How to know if it's a heart attack

Unhealthy lifestyles combined with a tonne of stress are making more and more people vulnerable to heart attacks. Here’s a low-down on signs and symptoms of a heart attack


Often people expect a heart attack to be dramatic like it is in the movies. But in reality — most often — that is not the case. This article thus spells out the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

What happens during a heart attack?

During a heart attack, the blood flow to the heart muscle is either reduced or completely stops. This typically happens because of a blood clot that is blocking an artery.
When the heart muscle does not get oxygen-rich blood, it ceases to work.

Some common heart attack symptoms:

  • A heart attack often causes chest pain.
  • There is a feeling of fullness or a clasping pain in the centre of the chest. Most victims describe the pain as akin to an elephant standing on the chest (extreme pain). It usually lasts for about 15 minutes.
  • One also experiences shooting pain in the shoulders, neck, arm, back and sometimes even the teeth and jaw.
  • One finds increasing episodes of chest pain.
  • Prolonged pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • The victim might experience heavy sweating.
  • Since the heart’s pumping action is severely impaired during a severe heart attack, the victim might lose his/her consciousness.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • In rare cases, as in patients who are diabetic, the heart attack may not be very painful, and sometimes can even be entirely painless.

Photo from the Yahoo! Contributor Network
Other heart attack symptoms

The elderly, diabetics, people on steroids as well as women are less likely to have obvious symptoms like severe chest pain (as often seen in men). These are some symptoms they are likely to have:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Heart burn
  • Sweaty skin
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Tightness or pain in the neck, shoulder or upper back

Heart attack symptoms are not the same for all… 

Not everyone who has a heart attack has the same symptoms. Many a time, we also tend to ignore a heart attack thinking it might be mere abdominal discomfort due to gas pains or indigestion. If you have more than a few symptoms listed above, then you are likely to be having an attack. Get emergency help immediately.

What to do in case of a heart attack?

  • Rush to a hospital: If you recognise that you or someone around is having a heart attack, get immediate medical help.
  • Give Disprin (Asprin): As soon as you recognise it is an attack, crush a disprin, dissolve it in water and make the person drink it.
  • Emergency numbers: Every office and home must keep a list of emergency numbers like that of an ambulance service, hospital.

 A heart attack is different from a cardiac arrest

Do not confuse a heart attack with cardiac arrest. In the case of a cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops. It occurs due to an electrical disturbance that obstructs the heart’s pumping function, which results in stopping blood flow to the rest of the body.

With inputs from Dr Deepak Krishnamurthy, a consultant interventional cardiologist with Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore 

Photographs via sxc.hu

Related posts:

  1. Heart attack in young and middle-aged Indians
  2. Good to Know: A heart attack, also called myocardial infarction, is when part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies because it is not receiving oxygen.
  3. Good To Know: Inflammation is one potent reason behind heart disease and heart attack. Include some vitamin-K foods, which is anything leafy and green to prevent it.
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