Heart attack signs, symptoms and prevention

submitted by Dr. Shahzad Ahmed MD, FACC, FSCAI, RPVI, Interventional Cardiologist, Director Cardiology, Lower Bucks Hospital,

Your heart muscle needs oxygen and nutrients.

A heart attack usually occurs when blood flow to the heart is cut off. When this occurs, heart muscle can be damaged or die. Immediate care is critical to save the heart muscle and your life.

Every year more than 800,000 Americans have a heart attack. When you’ve had a heart attack, chances of having another heart attack are high. That is why it is critical to take prescribed medications and follow nutrition and exercise programs tailored just for you. It is very important to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle. Controlling blood pressure and lowering cholesterol are also key to prevent another attack.


No two heart attacks are similar. Men and women can have a variety of symptoms including chest pain or tightness, trouble breathing, and discomfort or tingling in arms, back, neck or jaw. 

Other symptoms can include heartburn, unusual tiredness or fatigue, dizziness, nausea, or cold sweats. If you have any of the symptoms, you might be experiencing a heart attack.  Please call 911 immediately.

Exam and Tests

Your doctor can diagnose a heart attack based on your signs and symptoms, medical history and blood test. He may order an electrocardiogram which requires electrical activity of the heart muscle and can detect heart damage.  Blood tests can detect certain proteins which are released into the blood after the heart muscle die.


Early treatment to open up the blockage can help to save the heart muscle or limit the damage. Other treatments include oxygen therapy, aspirin and other anti-platelet therapies that can thin your blood.

  • Nitroglycerin can help blood flow through the heart arteries.
  • Pain relief medications
  • Anticoagulation to prevent further clotting
  • Beta-blockers or similar medicine to reduce the workload on heart muscle by decreasing heart rate and blood pressure

Prevention is the key. Eat a heart healthy diet, which includes fruit, vegetable, and nuts. Be physically active.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity in a week.

  • Do not smoke;
  • Control blood pressure and diabetes;
  • Control cholesterol;
  • Reduce stress level;
  • Follow-up with your doctor on a regular basis.

Life after heart attack

If you have a heart attack, you are at high risk for having another one.  Remember the second heart attack might not feel the same as the first one.  Follow a care plan and take your medicine on a regular basis.  Cardiac rehabilitation, which is a supervised exercise program, can help to gain your strength during recovery.

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