Heart Attack Symptoms


What is a heart attack, when do you need to call an ambulance and what should you do before it arrives?


A heart attack is a failure of the heart muscle caused by an acute violation of its blood supply due to thrombosis (blockage) of one of the heart arteries with an atherosclerotic plaque. The affected muscle dies, and necrosis develops. Cell death begins within 20-40 minutes after the cessation of blood flow.

Symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Severe pain behind the breastbone. It can spread to the left arm, shoulder and left side of the neck, or to the interscapular area.
  • The heart attack is often accompanied by a sense of fear.
  • Nitroglycerin does not relieve pain.
  • An attack may occur while resting, without any apparent reason, and the pain lasts from 15 minutes to several hours.


Having these symptoms, it is necessary to call an ambulance urgently and take 0.5 mg nitroglycerin pills at 15-minute intervals until it arrives, but not more than three times. This will help avoid a considerable drop in pressure.

It is also necessary to chew aspirin at the dosage of 150-250 mg.

It is important

What should you do if you feel pain in the heart?

  • Sometimes heart attacks resemble other diseases:
  • Gastralgic option is similar to the symptoms of acute abdomen attack: abdominal pain, bloating, weakness, drop in blood pressure, and tachycardia. Only an electrocardiogram can make it clear.
  • Asthmatic option is not accompanied by severe pain in the heart; the patient begins to choke, he/she is given medicines to facilitate breathing, but they bring no relief.
  • Cerebral option resembles a stroke; there appears confusion and speech disorder.
  • “Silent” heart attack occurs without pain at all, most often in the patients with diabetes. The only signs may include severe fatigue and shortness of breath after physical exercises, which used to be coped with easily.
  • Angina is another mask of a heart attack, under which it is “hiding” in approximately 10% of cases.
  • Pain appears only when walking. Such patients may often come to the clinic by themselves, but an electrocardiogram shows a heart attack.

Statistics of heart attacks

  • The risk factors for heart attacks include some that cannot be influenced: male gender (women of a certain age are protected by their sex hormones), age over 65 years, belonging to the black race.
  • The second group of risk factors includes those that are totally dependent on our lifestyle and can be reduced. These are smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol and glucose, physical inactivity, overweight.
  • Nicotine worsens the condition of blood vessels: the more you smoke, the greater is the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks.
  • Monitor your blood pressure. Every family should have a tonometer.
  • Knowing your cholesterol level is as necessary as knowing your blood pressure. If the figures exceed the norm, make a detailed analysis – a lipid profile will determine what percentage of the total cholesterol level is attributed to lipoproteins of low and high density. This will help the doctor choose among the modern medicines.
  • The increased blood sugar level causes a change in the endothelium of the blood vessels, which contributes to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
  • To find out whether your weight is normal, you need to learn your waist circumference. In women, it should normally be less than 80 cm, whereas in men it should not exceed 94 cm.

Just numbers

Lowering cholesterol levels in the blood by only 10% reduces the death rate from heart attacks by 15%!

  • What causes a heart attack? Here is the list of risk factors.
  • Experts have examined the blood samples from 50 patients who came to the hospital complaining of chest pain – the main clinical sign of a heart attack. Scientists have discovered the presence of a large amount of loose particles of badly deformed endothelial cells in the samples of their blood.
  • The average age of the patients was 58.5 years. For comparison, the researchers chose 44 healthy volunteers who were younger than the patients of the control group and 10 persons over 50 years.
  • The results showed that the number of circulating endothelial cells in the blood of patients was 4 times the number of these cells in the blood of healthy people. The cells found in the blood of healthy people were not deformed.

Scientists believe that endothelial cells begin to flake off the inner walls of blood vessels in large numbers about two weeks before the heart attack. This peculiarity can be used as a biomarker of the beginning process, prior to a heart attack.

A memo for the patient

  • The threat of a recurrent heart attack is intensified by the four main factors: atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, increased blood clotting and carbohydrate metabolism. These risks factors can only be avoided by using the right medication.
  • To inhibit the further development of atherosclerosis, it is important to prevent the formation of fat plaques in blood vessels. For this purpose, medications from the statins group are prescribed. Beta-blockers help the heart to work in a quieter mode. The so-called inhibitors of the angiotensin-converting enzyme reduce the vasoconstrictive action of the angiotensin substance and normalize the blood pressure.
  • One cannot change the dosage of these drugs at one’s own discretion. If you have any problems, the doctor will adjust the treatment.
  • The right diet is important to recover after a heart attack: low-fat dishes, no fried and spicy dishes, more fiber and dairy products, fruits, vegetables and fish.
  • The patient must abandon sausage, half-prepared dishes (ravioli, meatballs…) – they have a lot of hidden fats and raise cholesterol levels. For the same reason, pate, dishes from the liver, offal, and eggs are forbidden. Milk fat is also dangerous: one will have to eliminate butter; fat cottage cheese, cheese, milk, yogurt, sour cream, and cream. When cooking chicken or turkey, all the fat and skin must be removed.
  • Of course, a minimum of salt.
  • Vodka, brandy and other spirits are canceled. But a glass of natural dry red wine is allowed; it is a good prevention of atherosclerosis.
  • We’ll have to change some habits. If you used to smoke – a cigarette is now a complete taboo.

A fact

  • Almost 80% of the people who have had a heart attack can return to normal life.
  • In order to restore the heart muscle, it is important to be engaged in physical therapy. Walking is an excellent exercise for recreation. Within six to eight weeks of training, you will walk at the pace of up to 80 steps per minute without shortness of breath or weakness. With time, you will walk very fast – up to 120 steps per minute.
  • Other useful exercises include: climbing the stairs, cycling, and swimming. Dancing 2-3 times a week for 30-40 minutes.
  • However, make sure that the heart rate during the exercise does not exceed the limit by more than 70%. How is it calculated? You should subtract your own age from 220 – this is the maximum heart rate. Then calculate the percentage. For example, for a 60-year-old person, the maximum load is calculated as follows: 220-60=160 heartbeats per minute, so 70% is 112. This figure should be a guide. However, if you have unpleasant sensations at this frequency, the load should be reduced.
  • Attention! After a heart attack, lifting heavy things is strictly contraindicated.