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What happens when you have a heart attack?

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Preventing the disease is always a better option than waiting for it to occur, and then starting treatment. This rule applies to any disease and is especially valuable for symptoms that are not so easy to recognize.

One of the diseases that takes a lot of lives, and the main cause of that is the fact that people do not recognize the symptoms in time, is a heart attack.

Namely, it is estimated that by 2030, 23 million people will die from heart and blood vessel diseases. In the text that follows, we will explain what happens when you have a heart attack, what are the symptoms that indicate this terrible disease, as well as the causes that lead to it.

Here are some quick links to what we’ll cover in this article. If you’re in hurry, or for any other reason, feel free to use the quick links to jump straight to the section you want to read:

Learn to recognize a heart attack

elder woman in bad having a hedache
If we talk about the symptoms of a heart attack, most people first think of chest pain as the basic presentation of myocardial infarction.

However, over the last few decades, scientists and doctors have learned that the symptoms of a heart attack are not always so unambiguous and that there are some others that may indicate that a heart attack is developing.

Symptoms can be presented in different ways and can depend on a number of factors, such as whether you are a man or a woman, what type of heart disease you have, and how old you are.

It is important to conduct a detailed interview with the patient in order to determine the existence of a variety of symptoms that may indicate a heart attack. Discovering additional information can help you learn when to help yourself and your loved ones.

Early symptoms

The sooner you are given help and treatment begins, the better your chances of a full recovery. Unfortunately, many people are reluctant to seek help, even if they suspect something is wrong. Doctors, however, mostly encourage and advise people to seek help even in cases that have early symptoms that may be unclear.

And in case you made a mistake and in the end, it turns out that you did not have a heart attack, you will be subjected to certain tests that will definitely confirm or reject the diagnosis of myocardial infarction.

Everything is better than long-term heart damage as a consequence of an unrecognized myocardial infarction or other health problems because you waited too long and did not call the doctor on time.

Symptoms vary from person to person and even from case to case. The most important thing is to believe in yourself. You know your body better than anyone. If you feel that something is wrong and you do not feel well, seek emergency help immediately.
heart attack symptoms and sings warning infographic
According to the American College of Cardiology (former Society for the Care of Cardiovascular Patients), early symptoms occur in 50% of all people who have a heart attack.

If you recognize these early symptoms, you may be able to get the treatment you need quickly enough to prevent permanent heart damage. About 80% of heart damage occurs in the first two hours after a heart attack.

Early symptoms may include the following:

  • mild chest pain or discomfort that may occur and disappear, this is also called “recurrent” chest pain
  • pain in the shoulders, neck, and jaw
  • sweating
  • nausea or vomiting
  • dizziness or fainting
  • a feeling of shortness of breath
  • anxiety or confusion

How does a heart attack occur?

Heart attack (myocardial infarction) occurs due to a sudden interruption of blood flow through the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients, due to which a limited part of the muscular heart wall dies, ie. cell decay.

Due to the decrease in active heart mass, the heart can no longer pump blood normally, which can result in immediate cardiac arrest.

Insufficient flow or interruption of flow through the coronary arteries most often occurs due to blockage of the arteries by a blood clot, which over time gradually forms on the base of a blood vessel damaged by atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerotic plaques narrow the diameter of the blood vessel, creating a base on which a blood clot easily forms, which further narrows the blood vessel.

What to do when you have a heart attack? What is first aid in that case?

When symptoms appear, the most important thing is to stay sober and calm and take certain actions in time:
girl making cardiopulmonary resuscitation


    • If a patient with chest pain suddenly falls to the floor and loses consciousness, immediately determine if his heart is breathing and working.
    • If the patient is unconscious only, ensure airway patency by placing him in a stable lateral position and calling an ambulance.
    • If the patient is not breathing and his heart is not working, start the resuscitation procedure immediately (two breaths: 15 pressures on the lower third of the sternum), and have someone call an ambulance immediately. The result of resuscitation will be better if you approach it in the first four minutes from the moment of cardiac arrest.
    • If the patient is conscious, he should be calmed down and an ambulance should be called immediately. It is good to give the patient Aspirin (it is better to chew it because it will work faster that way). Aspirin will prevent blood clotting and thus speed up the flow through the narrowed coronary artery, which can reduce mortality by up to 25 percent.
    • Transport the patient to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. In ideal conditions, the emergency medical team will arrive in a few minutes and continue your efforts started with properly provided first aid with the methods of outpatient medical care.
    • However, if you are in the countryside or in nature, you may be able to get to the hospital by your own transport sooner. It is advisable to use a spacious vehicle (van) in which, if necessary, the resuscitation procedure can be approached while driving. The patient must not walk but must be carried to vehicles.

NOTE: If you have experienced threatening symptoms of a heart attack, in no case do not drive alone and try to find out in advance which, the nearest health institution provides you with help 24 hours a day.

Symptoms of a heart attack in men

You are more likely to have it if you are a man. Men also develop heart attacks earlier in life compared to women. If you have a family history of heart disease or have some of the risk factors such as cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, you are obese, the chances of myocardial infarction are even higher.
close up of elderly man having a heart attack
Fortunately, a lot of research has been conducted on how the hearts of men react during heart attacks.
Symptoms in men include:

  • classic anginal chest pain/chest pressure is described as “an elephant sitting on your chest”, with a feeling of tightness that may occur and
  • pass or feel constant and intense
  • pain or discomfort in the upper body, including the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or abdomen
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • stomach discomfort is often described as a digestive problem (indigestion)
  • difficulty breathing, which can make you feel like you can’t get enough air, even when you’re resting
  • dizziness or fainting
  • cold sweat

It is important to remember, however, that every heart attack is different. Your symptoms may not fit this description. Trust your instincts if you think something is wrong.

Symptoms of a heart attack in women

In recent decades, scientists have realized that the symptoms can be quite different in women compared to men. In 2003, the journal Circulation published the findings of a multicenter study of 515 women who suffered a heart attack.

The most commonly reported symptoms did not include chest pain. Instead, women reported unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, and anxiety. Nearly 80% of women said they had at least one symptom that had been present for more than a month before the heart attack.
senior woman lying on the floor after a heart attack
Symptoms in women include:

  • unusual fatigue lasting several days or sudden severe fatigue
  • sleep disorders
  • anxiety
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • indigestion or pain similar to the presence of gas in the digestive tract
  • pain in the upper back, shoulders, or throat
  • jaw pain or pain that spreads to the neck
  • pressure or pain in the center of the chest, which may extend to the arm

It is very important, even if you are unsure of your symptoms, to seek emergency help right away. If you have not had these symptoms before, do not hesitate to seek help.

Heart attack in women older than 50 years

Women experience significant physical changes around the age of 50, the time when many women begin to go through menopause. During this period of your life, the level of your hormone estrogen decreases.

Estrogen is believed to help protect the health of your heart. After menopause, the risk of heart attack increases.

Unfortunately, women who experience a heart attack are less likely to survive than men. Therefore, it becomes even more important to be aware of the health condition of your heart when you enter menopause.

There are additional symptoms that occur in women older than 50 years, and they include:

  • severe chest pain
  • pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or abdomen
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • sweating

Be aware of these symptoms and schedule regular health checkups with your doctor.

How to deal with the problem

The best way to prevent and alleviate the progression of the disease is a moderate, healthy lifestyle – proper nutrition (approved by a cardiologist and designed by a dietitian-nutritionist), proper physical activity (approved by a cardiologist and designed by a physiotherapist).
doctor hold heart close up and front view
Regular therapy, regular systematic and scheduled check-ups with a general practitioner and cardiologist, and smoking cessation are recommended.

Proper nutrition should be such as to maintain optimal body weight and provide all the necessary nutrients in optimal amounts, with special care to ensure that cholesterol intake does not exceed 300 mg and to increase the intake of Omega3 fatty acids.

Daily aerobic physical activity, such as walking, cycling, and swimming, must be performed if approved by a cardiologist.

Regular systematic and scheduled check-ups with general practitioners and cardiologists and glucose analysis (standard and special – glucose tolerance test and glycosylated hemoglobin), triglycerides, and total blood cholesterol and its fractions (good HDL cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol) are necessary. as well as their HDL / LDL ratio, which shows the physics factor for infarction.

Occasional tests of physical activity load (ergometry). Pay special attention to yourself if you know that someone in your family has had a heart attack, angina pectoris, or a stroke (stroke).

That’s it!

We hope this post helped you learn how to recognize a heart attack, its symptoms, what to do when you have it, and first aid in that case. And for the end, of course, how to deal with the problem.

We think that it will be very interesting and important for you to look at our texts about blood pressure variation and 22 factors that affect it, as well as the best tips on how to lower high blood pressure naturally.

And if you are looking for more ways to improve your heart health, you should check our other great Majota Blog posts.

Also, if you have any questions or feel that there is some other important symptom, the remedy, or treatment for heart attack patients we have not listed, feel free to leave a comment, it will mean a lot to us and we will be grateful for it.

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2 thoughts on “What happens when you have a heart attack?”

  1. Hey great post though quite scary!

    It’s important posts like these are read thoroughly so people are well aware what to look out for as well as what to do if a serious case like this arises. I didn’t know women and men have quite the polar opposite signs!

    Like you have stated it’s best to try and prevent it then leaving it. Looking after your health is essential to help lower the risk!

    1. Borislav, Majota HealthCare

      Hi Sariyah.

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, you are right. Unfortunately, when it comes to topics such as heart attacks, it must be scary when it comes down to it. In any case, prevention, healthy living, and a healthy diet are the key to avoiding this vicious disease.

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