Heart rate during a heart attack: what you need to know

A person’s heart rate may increase or stay the same during a heart attack. An elevated heart rate is not a specific sign or symptom of a heart attack.

Heart attacks involve restricting or stopping blood flow to the heart. A person’s heart rate during a heart attack varies depending on their general health, medication use, and other medical conditions.

Some people will experience an increase in heart rate during a heart attack, but others will not. The most common signs of a heart attack include severe chest pain, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

This article explains what happens during a heart attack, how it affects heart rate, and what to do.

A heart attack occurs when the heart loses all or part of the blood flow to the organ. The blood flowing to the heart provides oxygen. Without oxygen, the heart cannot function normally.

According to American Heart Association, the heart is damaged during a heart attack. The amount and severity of damage will depend on:

  • how much blood to the heart is blocked
  • what is the oxygen demand of the heart muscle
  • speed of treatment

After a heart attack, the heart will begin to heal, sometimes creating scar tissue over the damaged area. In some cases, the heart will become permanently weakened and pump less blood.

A person’s heart rate may increase or stay the same during a heart attack.

Heart rate at the time of treatment can sometimes predict successful recovery. According to a 2018 study in 58 hospitals, a heart rate greater than 80 beats per minute had the highest risk of death after a heart attack.

Is a high heart rate a sign of a heart attack?

An elevated heart rate is not a reliable sign of a heart attack.

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Heart Association do not recognize the elevated heart rate as a sign or symptom of a heart attack.

There are three types of heart attack, each of which affects the heart rate differently. the three types are:

  • ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI)
  • non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI)
  • coronary artery spasm

STEMI can be the most serious form of heart attack. This usually causes an elevated heart rate during the event, but certain types of STEMI can damage the heart’s electrical system and slow the heart rate. NSTEMI heart attacks are usually less damaging to the heart, but can also increase the heart rate. Sometimes NSTEMI (type II) is the result of a rapid heart rate due to another underlying problem (fever, bleeding) with a fixed blockage of the coronary arteries.

Coronary artery spasms occur when the walls of the arteries constrict and restrict blood flow to the heart. They can also affect the heart rate.

Heart attacks damage part of the heart. The damage occurs in any area that the blocked artery usually supplies with blood.

According to American Heart Association, a damaged heart continues to pump blood through the body, but strain can weaken it. During the event, a person’s heart rate may increase.

A doctor or emergency room team may use a beta blocker to slow heart rate, reducing the heart’s oxygen demand. This can help prevent further damage to the organ.

According to American Heart Association, tachycardia is the case where a person’s heart rate is too fast for their age and general physical condition. During a heart attack, their heart rate will likely stay elevated.

Bradycardia causes a slower heart rate. People with bradycardia or other diseases of the electrical system may not experience an increase in heart rate during a heart attack.

the American Heart Association states that during a heart attack, the heart muscle will be damaged due to a lack of oxygen. This can weaken the heart, which can lead to a drop in blood pressure during or after a heart attack. Low blood pressure can interfere with blood flow to the heart.

Stress during a heart attack can also increase blood pressure. Once treatment has started, healthcare professionals will monitor the blood pressure and stabilize it as needed. Higher blood pressure can increase the heart’s demand for oxygen.

There are several potential signs of a heart attack to watch out for, including:

  • discomfort in different areas of the body, such as in one or both arms, neck, back, or stomach
  • pressure or fullness in the chest
  • chest discomfort or shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • cold sweat

Symptoms can vary depending on whether the person is male or female. Anyone can have chest pain or a feeling of fullness. Females are more likely experiencing some of the other atypical symptoms, such as discomfort around the body.

Sex and gender exist on specters. This article will use the terms “male”, “female” or both to refer to the sex assigned at birth. Click here to find out more

About 50% of all Americans have at least one risk factor for a heart attack. According to CDC, some common risk factors include:

  • family history of heart disease
  • smoking
  • arterial hypertension
  • high cholesterol
  • older age

Anyone with symptoms of a heart attack should contact emergency services immediately. the CDC states that early treatment reduces the risk of permanent damage or death.

Following the emergency, a person should consult their doctor to find out what steps to take to promote a full recovery. Doctors will usually help develop a follow-up treatment plan which may include preventative medicine and lifestyle changes.

A person’s heart rate during a heart attack may increase or stay the same, although an elevated heart rate may be associated with a worse outcome. Doctors may provide medicines during a heart attack to lower the heart rate, such as beta blockers.

An elevated heart rate is not a reliable sign of a heart attack. Watch out for other signs, such as chest pain, pressure, or discomfort. A person should contact emergency services immediately if they show signs of a heart attack.

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