Recognizing the Warning Signs: Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Recognizing a Heart Attack: Symptoms to Watch For


When the blood flow to the heart is reduced or blocked, the blockage is usually caused due to fat buildup, cholesterol, and other factors. These buildups or deposits are called plaque, and the process of plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis. Sometimes, the plaque can form a clot that blocks or reduces the blood flow, which destroys the heart muscle. When there is little to no blood flow, the heart muscle begins to die, causing difficulty in breathing, chest pain, etc. It is important to understand the signs of heart attack, as it can save a person’s life. In this blog, we have discussed the symptoms and causes of a heart attack in detail.

Understanding Heart Attacks

Definition and causes of a heart attack

A heart attack is also called myocardial infarction. This occurs when fatty deposits in the arteries restrict the blood flow to the heart. A person experiencing a heart attack will feel pain in the chest and other parts of their body. It is important to note that a heart attack is different from cardiac arrest because, in cardiac arrest, the heart completely stops. On the other hand, a heart attack occurs from coronary artery disease when the blood does not flow properly, which can be life-threatening. This can be caused due to the following:

  • Coronary artery spasm
  • Unusual narrowing of blood vessels
  • Blood clot or air bubble trapped in the coronary artery
  • Tears or ruptures in the coronary artery
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Eating disorder

In addition, a heart attack is also caused by drug overuse.

Common risk factors for heart attacks

According to the American Heart Association, the following are common risk factors for a heart attack:

  • Male sex
  • Old age
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Low activity levels
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Higher level of stress
  • Consumption of processed food, along with added fat, sugar, etc.
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Genetics and family history

It is also said that a heart attack occurs when two or more factors combine. Moreover, people with a history of cardiovascular disease have a higher risk of a heart attack

Typical symptoms of a heart attack

Heart attacks can have several symptoms. The symptoms and causes in men are different from women. Some of the common signs of heart attack are as follows:

  • Chest pain or discomfort 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Feeling lightheaded and dizzy 
  • Coughing and wheezing (when fluid builds up in the lungs) 
  • Feeling tired and sweaty with slight movement 
  • Feeling anxiety similar to a panic attack

Recognizing atypical or silent heart attacks

Symptoms in women

  • Chest pain and discomfort around the chest area.
  • Neck pain and upper back pain.
  • Indigestion.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Palpitations (fluttering feeling in the chest).

Symptoms in older adults

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain in the neck, arms, or jaw.
  • Nausea and an upset stomach.
  • Fatigue.

Silent heart attacks

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Nausea and cold sweats.
  • Chest pain, fullness, and discomfort.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the body.

Immediate response and emergency medical care

Calling emergency services 

  • Call emergency health services immediately if someone starts experiencing signs of heart attack.
  • If you are the victim of a heart attack and cannot get an ambulance or emergency vehicle to come to you, ask a neighbour or friend to drive you to the nearest Best Cardiology Hospital in Hyderabad. Never drive by yourself. Driving alone puts you and others in danger since your condition could worsen.

Administering aspirin if advised by healthcare professionals 

  • Aspirin helps blood flow normally by correcting blood clots. It may help decrease the damage caused by a heart attack, but it is essential to seek emergency medical assistance before taking the medication.
  • A low dose of aspirin may be sufficient to prevent or delay the formation of a blood clot, as aspirin is an effective blood thinner. However, if you are allergic to aspirin, you should avoid taking it.

Performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) if necessary

CPR is one of the effective techniques to help people experiencing heart attacks. This is what you should do if someone suddenly has a heart attack:

  • Put your hands together in a fist lock and place the palms of your hands on the middle of the person’s chest.
  • With your elbows locked and your shoulders above your hands, push quickly and forcefully at a rate of 100–120 compressions per minute. Press to a depth of about two inches.
  • Keep doing these compressions until the individual begins to breathe or move, until someone else takes over, or until you are worn out.
  • Try to alternate without stopping the compressions.

High-Risk individuals and early intervention

Individuals with existing heart conditions

People with heart conditions, such as Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), have a higher risk of experiencing a heart attack. Thus, CHD is the leading cause of heart attacks. In CHD, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart get blocked by cholesterol deposits, also known as plaque. Before a heart attack occurs, one of the plaques ruptures, causing blood to clot in the area of rupture.

Individuals with diabetes

Individuals with diabetes have a higher chance of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can lead to a heart attack. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels of the heart and the surrounding nerves, potentially causing the blood vessels to rupture and form blood clots.

Individuals with a family history of heart disease

People with a family history of heart attacks are more likely to be at risk of experiencing a heart attack. However, it’s essential to understand that having a family member who had a heart attack does not guarantee that you will also have one. Both genetics and lifestyle factors contribute to the development of this condition.

Prevention and Risk Reduction

Lifestyle modifications for heart health

Living a healthy lifestyle is crucial for a healthy heart. Here are a few lifestyle modifications that you can make for healthy living:

  • Exercise daily for at least an hour.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat nutritious food.
  • Manage stress.

Regular check-ups and screenings

The heart and blood arteries can be harmed by excessive blood pressure and high cholesterol. Without testing, a person won’t likely be able to tell if they have these disorders. Thus, it is crucial to understand the need for getting regular checkups and screenings to ensure these conditions are addressed before they become life hazards. These checkups and screenings consist of:

  • Type 2 diabetes screening
  • Cholesterol level testing
  • Blood pressure measurement.

Medication adherence and management of underlying conditions

It is crucial to take medication for underlying conditions that can cause a heart attack. It is advisable to take hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes medications on time, while also implementing preventive measures to control these conditions. Proper management of these conditions helps in reducing the symptoms and minimising the risk of a heart stroke.


A heart attack is caused due to a blockage in the coronary artery, which helps carry the blood to the heart. The blockage is caused by plaque deposits that rupture due to pressure in the blood flow, leading to blood clots. Additionally, many underlying diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure can lead to a heart failure. It can be life-threatening and thus requires immediate care. The signs of a heart stroke might not be very severe at times, but you must understand the long-term effects on the heart and seek medical help at the earliest.

It is also advisable to take certain preventive measures along with medical help. Managing diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure is advisable, as it lowers the risk of a heart stroke. In addition, exercising regularly and eating a heart-friendly diet can lower the risk of a heart stroke. As mentioned earlier, it is essential to see the best doctors for heart attack treatment, as they specialise in treating conditions like this. At Omni hospital, also known as the Best Cardiology Hospital in Hyderabad, we have trained and board-certified cardiologists with years of experience in treating all kinds of heart diseases. Each of our doctors brings international expertise to the treatment at the hospital. Moreover, we make use of the most advanced technologies and instruments to treat cardiac and vascular conditions.