What Does a Sudden Heart Attack Feel Like
A sudden heart attack may feel like pain, pressure, fullness, or squeezing in the chest that lasts for a few minutes or goes away and comes back

In most cases, a sudden heart attack may feel like pain, pressure, fullness, or squeezing in the chest that lasts for a few minutes or goes away and comes back. Other symptoms may include:

What causes a sudden heart attack?

A heart attack is caused by a blockage in or spasm of your coronary artery, which is the artery that supplies blood to your heart. 

  • Blockage: The artery may be partially or completely blocked by blood clots and fat that get deposited on the walls of the artery. The blockage reduces blood supply to your heart and causes an oxygen shortage.
  • Spasm: A spasm of your coronary artery stops blood flow to part of the heart muscle. The spasm is often caused by using tobacco and recreational drugs such as cocaine.

COVID-19 can also damage your heart and result in a heart attack.

What increases your risk of a heart attack?

Factors that increase your risk of a heart attack include:

How is a heart attack treated?

If you notice symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Emergency medical help is crucial, as prompt treatment greatly improves your chances of survival and minimizes the damage to your heart and other organs.

If you see someone having a heart attack, you can start performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR instructions can be found on websites of organizations such as the American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Red Cross. Additionally, you can give the person a baby aspirin or nitroglycerin tablet.

Once you reach the emergency room, hospital staff may perform CPR. They may also administer an electrical shock (defibrillation) to get the heart pumping again. Clot buster drugs (such as streptokinase) may be administered  intravenously.


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What should you do to recover after a heart attack?

A heart attack increases your risk of heart damage and other health conditions such as stroke and kidney failure. To ease your recovery process and prevent future heart attacks, it is important to:

  • Restrict physical activity: Your doctor may want you to rest for several days after a heart attack. They may ask you to limit work, avoid long-distance travel, or avoid sexual activity for a period of time.
  • Take medications as prescribed: Take your medications as prescribed, per the timing and dosages recommended by your doctor.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices: Eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, quit smoking and take measures to manage your stress levels.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/17/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

About Heart Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/about.htm