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The Signs of a Heart Attack: Everything You Need to Know

The Signs of a Heart Attack: Everything You Need to Know

If You Think You Are Suffering from a Heart Attack, Call the Emergency Services Immediately.

Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death across the world. If you live in the Western world, you’ve got a one in four chance of it killing you. In the much poorer parts of the world, the chances can be as high as one in two. If that’s not a sobering thought, the knowledge that you will know someone who will die of a heart attack could spur you to get to know the symptoms and causes of a heart attack.

A quick, informed response can save a life. A heart attack outside of a hospital has a less than one in ten chance of survival, while a patient that gets the right response and gets to a hospital in time can have a seven in ten chance of survival.

That difference can be up to you knowing, recognizing and responding to the signs of a heart attack.

Know the Causes and Symptoms

Many heart attacks need not be fatal. Knowing and understanding the symptoms can mean an effective response can be made by non-medical persons, in other words, you.

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is usually the result of coronary heart disease, or CHD. This is where the blood vessels that supply the heart become clogged with cholesterol or plaques. When these plaques build up, they restrict the blood flow to the heart and cause it to have either massively reduced function or stop working at all. When a plaque bursts, it can cause the already restricted blood vessel to become completely blocked.

When the heart is deprived of blood it is not getting an adequate supply of oxygen. After a few minutes of this, the tissues of the heart start to die. Heart muscle is very difficult to repair, so this damaged tissue can cause significant problems for the rest of the patient’s life if they survive the heart attack.

Along with the heart being deprived of oxygen, the rest of the body loses its oxygen and nutrient supply, resulting in tissue damage or death. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be stated, but this is often fatal.

Heart attacks are more commonly fatal in men than women, though it is still a leading cause of death for women. Commonly affecting people over the age of 50. CHD can affect anybody of any age and is usually related to a diet high in sugar, salt, fat, suffering from obesity, lack of exercise, genetic factors, smoking, inactivity, air pollution, stress, and mental health issues.

Signs of a Heart Attack

The signs of a heart attack can differ between men and women, and for many people, the signs of a heart attack are the same as indigestion. This unfortunate commonality means that some people don’t get the treatment they need, having misdiagnosed themselves.

The signs to look for in both men and women are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort – this can feel like being squeezed with great pressure and can spread across the arms, chest, neck, and jaw.
  • Tingling or shooting pain in the left arm and upper chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Intense anxiety
  • Weakness, faintness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Wheezing or coughing

These symptoms can be brought on during exercise, rest or inactivity. Many people do not experience the heavy chest pains that we commonly associate with a heart attack and put it down to indigestion. If you don’t often suffer from indigestion and are over 50, or in any of the risk brackets for heart attack, get it checked out. If there are at least one of the symptoms, assume you need to attend a hospital. It is not worth taking a risk with something so potentially fatal.

What to do if you think you are having a Heart Attack

Don’t Panic

Call the emergency services immediately and ask for an ambulance.

If you have some to hand, chewing and swallowing an aspirin tablet will help as it thins the blood and allows greater blood flow.

Sit upright against a wall and put your head between your raised knees. This reduces the pressure on your heart.

What to do if you Think Someone Else is having a Heart attack

Don’t Panic

Call the emergency services immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Stay on the phone with the emergency services, they will guide you through what you need to do.

If you’re in a public place, ask for assistance from a passerby.

Position that person upright against a wall, raise their legs and if possible, position their head between their knees. Keep them calm.

Check if they are allergic to aspirin if possible administer a chewable aspirin tablet.

Cardiac Arrest

If the patient has lost consciousness, stopped responding to touch or sound, stopped breathing, or moving, then they have likely entered cardiac arrest. This is where the heart cannot pump any more blood and so stops working.

CPR on an Adult

If you do not know CPR, talk to the emergency services, they will guide you through the steps if no medical responder is on the scene.

If you are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, you will know what to do.

Should there be no professional medical staff at hand, you may be required to start CPR.

On an adult, put the heel of your hand over the breastbone, placing the other hand over it and interlocking the fingers. Using your body weight, not just your hands and arms, begin regularly compressing the chest by around five to six cm, or two inches.

A compression rate of around 100 to 120 is suitable. A song with a similar beat per minute can be sung to give you the right rhythm. Staying Alive by the BeeGees is a good example.

Current advice is not to use mouth to mouth resuscitation on an adult unless you are trained specifically how to do so.

CPR on a Child

This is quite complicated and is very easy to get wrong, so should be done under the instruction of the emergency services.

Initiate CPR as for an adult but using a finger for a baby and a hand for a child, compressing the chest at the same rate but only four cm for a baby under one year of age and five cm for a child over that age.

After 30 compressions, tilt the head back, lift the chin and give two breaths.

Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

Many businesses and public areas have an automated external defibrillator, ask anybody around if they know if there is one. These are boxes that contain a defibrillator which will deliver a series of electric shocks to the patient in order to restore proper heart function. The onboard system will guide you through the correct set up of the device, follow the instructions closely.

If in Doubt, Call the Emergency Services

The emergency services won’t mind if it turns out to be indigestion, they would much rather it was that than not being called and it turns out to be a heart attack. They deal with these very often, so don’t worry and call them immediately.

Heart Attacks In DIfferent Groups

Women and Heart Attacks

For women, chest pains are less common than with men and so heart attacks are less obvious. While heart attacks remain the major killer of women, they are often less aware of the risks and signs.

Two-thirds of women in the United States who die of a sudden heart attack have had no previous symptoms and therefore cannot spot the signs of a heart attack, making it difficult to prevent. Regular screening for those at risk is the best way to diagnose and prevent heart attacks in both men and women.

Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or indigestion-like symptoms are more common in women than men and should be taken seriously as signs of a heart attack.


Different ethnic groups have different risks of a heart attack: Caucasian men and women are less likely than those with an African heritage to suffer a heart attack, but not by much. Hispanics have roughly the same chance as Caucasians of dying of a heart attack, and those of Native American descent have a lower chance than any of the above groups. Knowing the differences between ethnicities’ risks of a heart attack can help coordinate an effective response.


If you are over the age of 50, you are at a higher risk of heart attack and should receive regular check-ups to monitor blood pressure and other influencing factors like obesity and diet.

Heart attacks can occur at any age so symptoms should be taken seriously in anybody they appear in. If in doubt, call the emergency services.


Smoking is a direct cause of heart disease and raises the risk of a heart attack more than nearly anything, so if possible, quit.


Your response can save lives, make sure you know what you’re doing. Call the emergency services immediately if you see any combination of the symptoms.

To ensure you have a healthy heart, and lower your risk of a heart attack, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and pursue natural ways to maintain a healthy heart. One such way is using CBD to strengthen your heart in an all-natural way.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
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