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Heart Attack Symptoms: Recognising the Signs and Taking Action

What Should You Do If You Suspect You're Having a Heart Attack?

Your heart health matters. Heart attacks can be caused by the buildup of plaque in your coronary arteries, the arteries responsible for blood flow to your heart muscle. Over time, the plaque buildup can cause blood clots that restrict or completely stop blood flow through the coronary artery.

Whilst CAD is often the main culprit, there are occasionally other causes of heart attacks:

  • Spontaneous coronary artery dissection.
  • Coronary artery spasm.

What are the risk factors for heart attacks?

heart attack
There are many risk factors for developing heart disease, such as obesity, diabetes, an unhealthy lifestyle, and smoking.

There are modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for heart disease and heart attacks:

Modifiable factors:

  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Non-modifiable factors:

  • Family history
  • Ethnicity
  • Being male, or post-menopausal women
  • Age

Health conditions that increase your risk of a heart attack:

  • High blood pressure (read more about hypertension here).
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression or poor mental health
  • PCOS
  • Some cancer treatments
heart attack
There are many risk factors for developing heart disease, such as obesity, diabetes, an unhealthy lifestyle, and smoking.

What are the symptoms of a Heart Attack?

The symptoms of a heart attack vary and can be mild or severe; some people may present with no symptoms at all. These signs can occur suddenly or can be felt over hours, days, weeks, or even months. Common heart attack symptoms include:
  • Chest pain, described as tightness, squeezing or pressure.
  • Discomfort or pain in your shoulder, arm, neck, jaw or back
  • Fatigue
  • Reflux, indigestion or heartburn
  • Dizziness or feeling
  • lightheaded
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pale
  • Sweaty, or a cold sweat
  • Palpitations
heart attack
Women may experience “atypical” signs of a heart attack, presenting with abdominal pain, breathing difficulties, fatigue, and back pain.

What are the signs of a heart attack in women?

heart attack
Women may experience “atypical” signs of a heart attack, presenting with abdominal pain, breathing difficulties, fatigue, and back pain.

Women may experience different heart attack warning signs, or what we call “atypical symptoms”, such as:

  • Breathlessness
  • generally unwell
  • Discomfort in arms
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Upper back pressure or pain
  • Chest discomfort that feels more like burning or throbbing

What should you do if you suspect you’re having a heart attack?

If you have signs of an attack, call triple zero (000) immediately. A heart attack is a medical emergency, and you need to seek help as soon as possible. Don’t ignore the symptoms and do not drive yourself to the hospital.
How do we diagnose and treat a heart attack?
When you arrive at the hospital emergency room, blood tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG) will be performed immediately. These will determine if you are having a heart attack.

If these tests are positive you will be sent to the cath lab for immediate intervention. Early treatment is vital, as the longer your cardiac muscle is deprived of oxygen and blood, the more cardiac cells die and the more damage is done.

The cardiologist will perform a coronary angiogram and typically insert a stent to open the blocked artery and restore blood flow. If you have major blockages in several coronary arteries, it may be recommended you have a coronary artery bypass surgery.

You will also be prescribed several different medications to help your heart recover and to reduce the risk of further cardiac events. These include:

  • Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, to prevent or treat a blood clot
  • Antiplatelets stop blood clotting
  • Beta-Blockers and blood pressure medicines to reduce how hard your heart has to work
  • Nitrates to relieve chest pain
  • Statins to lower your cholesterol

Melbourne Heart Care is here to help

Our dedicated team at Melbourne Heart Care offers comprehensive and personalised treatment programs to monitor your heart condition. We provide education, support, cardiac rehabilitation and high-quality care using state-of-the-art equipment in our modern clinics.

For long-term care, we are here to help! However, if you suspect you or someone near you is having a heart emergency, please call triple zero (000) immediately.

Contact Us

Please don’t hesitate to contact Melbourne Heart Care’s experienced, dedicated team if you have any questions. Appointments can be made by contacting the practice via phone. Referrals can be sent via Argus, Email or Fax.
  • Phone: 03 9592 2177
  • Fax: 03 9592 3177
  • Postal Address: Suite 16, 3 Male Street, Brighton 3186

Where to find Us

We provide consultations and a comprehensive range of tests and treatments at our modern facilities in Melbourne and surrounding areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read our frequently asked questions below, or contact Bayside Heart Care to find out more.
The number one sign of a heart attack is uncomfortable pressure, pain, or discomfort in your chest. However, it is important to note that women are more likely to exhibit shortness of breath or upper abdominal pain.
If someone else is having a heart attack, you need to call triple zero (000) and seek immediate medical help. The emergency operator will walk you through what to do while you wait for the paramedics to arrive.
Heart attacks happen when a blood vessel supplying your heart becomes blocked, reducing the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart. Usually, the person is conscious and able to talk to you. A sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating and pumping blood. The person will not be conscious or breathing, and this is a life-threatening emergency. The person needs chest compressions and, if available, the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).
‘Am I having a heart attack or reflux?’ is a very common question as the symptoms can mimic each other. Blood tests, electrocardiograms (ECG), echocardiograms, stress tests, and other medical tests can determine if you have had or are having a cardiac event or something less serious.