Health and Wellness

Heart Attack: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

As per the latest data published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), heart attack cases have increased by 12% in 2022, which counts to over 32,457 individuals who died due to heart attack in…

As per the latest data published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), heart attack cases have increased by 12% in 2022, which counts to over 32,457 individuals who died due to heart attack in 2022 alone. (Source)

The heart is one of the most important organs keeping the body functioning. It is a little larger than the size of a fist and pumps blood all over the human body through the circulatory system. The heart needs a good blood supply to function adequately. When the blood-carrying coronary artery is blocked for any reason, the individual may experience pain in the chest that may lead to a heart attack.  

Reading this article, you will learn about heart attack symptoms, reasons, and possible treatments.

What is Heart Attack?

A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, is an extremely dangerous heart disease that occurs when the coronary artery carrying blood to the heart narrows due to the build-up of plaque. Due to the narrowed artery, the heart doesn’t receive sufficient blood flow, resulting in a lack of oxygen. 

As a result, a part of the heart muscle begins to die, leading to the risk of heart attack. It’s a life-threatening medical emergency requiring immediate treatment. 

What Exactly Happens During the Heart Attack?

A heart attack happens when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked or reduced compared to the normal blood supply. The continuous disruption damages that part of the heart muscle. When the condition is not treated for long, the muscle dies from lacking blood, making the heart struggle to pump, which causes deadly effects.

Types of Heart Attack

You may have heard various terms referring to the types of heart attack cases. The most common types of heart attack are: 



STEMI (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction)

Where a coronary artery is completely blocked 

NSTEMI (Non-ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction)

Where a coronary artery is narrowed enough to reduce the blood flow to the heart

MINOCA (Myocardial Infarction with Nonobstructive Coronary Arteries)

No blockages in the main coronary arteries

Coronary Artery Spasm 

Contraction of the heart arteries

Heart Attack Symptoms 

The signs and symptoms of heart attack may vary in different individuals, including mild or severe. Many people may feel pain in their chest; others may feel discomfort, squeezing heaviness or crushing pain. Some of the common symptoms may include: 

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Trouble in sleeping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling light or dizziness
  • Discomfort that spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, or sometimes the upper belly
  • Cold sweat
  • Palpitations (experiencing the irregular heartbeat)

In comparison to men, the signs and symptoms of heart attack may differ in women, ranging from brief or sharp pain in the neck, arm or back.  

Note: Some heart attacks are sudden, but people may have experienced the warning signs or any symptoms hours, days, or weeks in advance. 

Potential Risk Factors and Causes of Heart Attack

A heart attack is caused by artery blockage due to plaque buildup from deposits, cholesterol, or other substances. When plaque ruptures (breaks), blood clots are formed immediately, leading to a heart attack. 

The risk factors for the heart attack can be both genetic (you are born with) and acquired (caused by self activities). 

Genetic Risk Factors 

Acquired Risk Factors

Inherited high blood pressure (hypertension)

Acquired high blood pressure (hypertension)

Inherited low levels of HDL cholesterol, high levels of LDL cholesterol

Acquired low levels of HDL cholesterol, high levels of LDL cholesterol

Family history of heart disease

Cigarette smokers

Older men and women (age above 65)

A lot of stress

Women after menopause

Too much alcohol consumption

Type 1 diabetes 

Sedentary lifestyle

Any auto-immune condition 

Struggling with obesity

Type 2 diabetes

Tests to Diagnose Heart Attacks

Based on the symptoms experienced by the individual, the healthcare provider will perform different examinations and diagnostic tests, including the following: 

Diagnostic Test

Recorded Measures

Physical Test

  • Abnormal sounds in your lungs 
  • Fast or uneven pulse 
  • Blood pressure examination


  • Look for heart damages

Blood Test

  • Heart tissue damage

Coronary Angiography

  • Blood flow through the heart


  • Structure of heart or surrounding heart vessels

Stress Test

  • Response of the cardiovascular system to external stress performed in a controlled clinical setting

Heart CT Scan or Heart MRI

  • High-quality images of the heart and vessels

Nuclear Heart Scan

  • Find affected areas of the heart 

Management and Treatments of Heart Attack 

The main agenda of treating a heart attack is to restore the blood flow to the affected part of the muscle as soon as possible and prevent the risk. This is possible in a variety of ways depending on the severity of the heart attack. Certain medications and treatments are as follows:

Medications: Your healthcare professional may advise you to take some medications, including: 

  • Aspirin 
  • Blood clot-breaking drugs
  • Blood thinners, like antiplatelet and anticoagulants
  • Pain relievers
  • Medicines to cure blood pressure
  • Beta-blockers
  • Nitroglycerin

Supplementary Oxygen: Those having trouble breathing receive supplemental oxygen and ongoing medications. This provides sufficient oxygen and removes the strain on the heart. 

Common Procedures: Common procedures to treat heart attacks include: 

  • Angioplasty to remove the plaque from the blocked artery
  • A stent is inserted into the artery to keep it open after the angioplasty 
  • Heart bypass surgery to reroute the blood around the blockage 
  • Heart valve repair or replacement surgery to repair or replace the leaky valves
  • A pacemaker implant beneath the skin to maintain a normal heart rhythm
  • A heart transplant, when there’s permanent damage to the tissue of the heart due to a heart attack 

How to Prevent Heart Attack?

A heart attack may be life-threatening to an individual. But if you have been diagnosed with any of the symptoms of a heart attack, taking precautionary steps can reduce the risk. It’s never too late to take preventive measures, which include: 

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet low in fats, cholesterol, and salt
  • Switch to a healthy lifestyle that includes lots of heart-healthy habits
  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain healthy weight
  • Get regular exercise
  • Maintain stress
  • Maintain medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
  • Take medications to improve heart health
  • Schedule a regular checkup with a healthcare provider

Heart attack is a severe heart disease that has become one of the major causes of death globally. While the heart attack symptoms may be visible in some individuals, they may reflect no or mild symptoms in others. Hence, it is also called the silent killer. People having a heart attack should call for emergency medical support immediately. The sooner you get treated, the better your chances of a speedy recovery. 

Once you face the symptoms, it may require frequent doctor visits and medications. To provide financial support during such severe medical conditions, health insurance purchased at the right time may work as a boon. Want to know what benefits you can avail of with a comprehensive health insurance policy and which is the best health policy to opt for? Immediately connect with one of our professional RenewBuy POSP Advisors. 

* Disclaimer: The details, facts, or figures given here are intended solely for the reader's informational purposes and should not be relied upon for personal, medical, legal, or financial decisions. Please visit the insurer's website for the latest updates. We do not endorse any particular insurance company or insurance product provided by any insurer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main cause of a heart attack?

  1. The cause of heart attack may differ from person to person depending on their lifestyle and inherited diseases. However, coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of heart attacks. 

How do you know you are having a heart attack?

  1. Different individuals may experience different symptoms of heart attack. The initial symptoms may include chest pain, tightness, pain, squeezing, or aching. The pain may spread to the shoulder, back, arm, jaw, or sometimes the upper belly. 

What is the first aid for a heart attack?

  1. If you think a person is having a heart attack, let him relax. After the doctor's consultation, you can take the medicine nitroglycerin. First of all, you should call for emergency help. 

What are the early symptoms of heart attack?

  1. Early symptoms of heart attack may include: 
  • Light-headedness
  • Sickness in stomach
  • Trouble in breathing
  • Pain in one or both arms, stomach, neck, or jaw
  • Discomfort in the middle of your chest

What are the benefits of angioplasty after a heart attack?

  1. Angiography for heart attack may save the life of an individual. The major benefit of angiography is that the blood starts flowing to the heart again quickly, relieving the chest pain and shortness of breath. 

What happens to the feet before a heart attack?

  1. There are no such symptoms in feet. But in the case of any cardiovascular disease, you may feel some symptoms due to reduced blood flow: 
  • Swelling in the feet and/ or ankles
  • Foot sores with slow recovery
  • Weak pulse in one or both foot
  • Slow growth of the toenails
  • One foot is colder than the other

What are the signs of a heart attack?

  1. Common signs of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, pain in the arm, back, neck, jaw, or stomach, shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea, and lightheadedness. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

What are the risk factors for a heart attack?

  1. The risk factors for heart attack include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, family history of heart disease, age, and chronic stress.

What is the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

  1. A heart attack occurs when oxygen-rich blood flow to part of the heart is blocked. Cardiac arrest happens when the heart suddenly stops beating due to electrical malfunctions. Sometimes, a heart attack can cause cardiac arrest.

What is a silent heart attack?

  1. A silent heart attack has no obvious symptoms, or they are so mild they are often mistaken for other conditions. It's diagnosed later when tests reveal heart damage.

Do women experience different heart attack symptoms than men?

  1. Yes, women are more likely to experience symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath, and back or jaw pain rather than the typical chest pain. 

What lifestyle changes are required to reduce the risk of a heart attack?

  1. To reduce the risk of heart attack, an individual may make the following lifestyle changes: 
  • Adopt a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains 
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Manage stress effectively

Does chest pain always indicate a heart attack?

  1. No, chest pain is not always a sign of a heart attack. Chest pain can also be caused by conditions like heartburn, muscle strain, or anxiety. However, it's important to seek medical consultation from a healthcare provider.


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