Can Blood Pressure Indicate a Heart Attack?

By Kelvin Daniel |
|5 min read

Mechanism of a Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs as a result of blood circulation problem inside the heart. It usually manifests as chest pain, which spreads to your left or right arm, neck, jaw, or back. Since the arteries become constricted and blood flow is disrupted, your blood pressure during a heart attack can change - it may increase or decrease. It may not change at all in some people.

Blood Pressure Basics

Blood pressure is used as an indicator for human body health. It is basically a measure of the pressure of blood on the large arteries. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg-diastolic (120/80 mmHg). Hypotension (low blood pressure) or hypertension (high blood pressure) may occur as a result of the heart attack depending on the body's response system.

Blood Pressure during a Heart Attack

What can your blood pressure say? The blockage of blood flow to the heart can cause the blood pressure to increase or decrease. How the blood pressure changes during a heart attack are not predictable. We shall look into both situations, as the causes for each are different. Your blood pressure is not one of those vital signs to be checked for symptoms of a heart attack as fluctuations in blood pressure cannot directly indicate a heart attack.

1. Decreased Blood Pressure during a Heart Attack

If blood pressure decreases during a heart attack (hypotension), it could be due to one or more of the following causes.

  • The parasympathetic nervous system, PNS, has signaled your body to go into a rest state in order to calm the heart. The release of the hormone acetylcholine slows the heart rate. Therefore, it is commonly referred to as the "rest and digest” system. It complements the sympathetic nervous system, which is discussed in part c of this article.

  • During the event of a heart attack, the part of the heart with constricted blood flow gets injured, which causes tissue damage known as myocardial ischemia. Tissue damage in the heart reduces the amount of blood pumped around your body. This damage becomes permanent after 30 minutes and necrosis occurs.

  • Neurocardiogenic syncope occurs due to extreme emotional or physical distress and triggers the body to overreact by dropping blood pressure and heart rate.

2. Increased Blood Pressure during a Heart Attack

If there is an increase in your heart attack blood pressure, it is due to the surge of hormones like adrenaline in your body, sending alarms to bring your body into a fight or flight state. Your body's sympathetic nervous system (SNS) induces this fight or flight reaction as it goes into hyperactive mode. During a fight or flight response, your pupils dilate, you sweat profusely, and your heart rate and blood pressure shoot up as noradrenaline and adrenaline are released.

Is this a heart attack?

There are some common identifiers of a heart attack that you should know about.

  • Are you feeling nauseous? Dizziness and lightheadedness are clear warning signs. Sometimes, it may even cause you to vomit.

  • Tightness in your back, jaw, and neck also indicate an oncoming heart attack.

  • This is the most well-known sign and most of you are aware that pain in arms and shoulders should be a red flag. Remember, pain may not only be in the left arm.

  • The center of your chest feels like it is squeezing under pressure and suddenly, there is a lot of pain. This also spreads to the epigastric region.

How Can You Prevent A Heart Attack?

Reading about the science behind a heart attack and how it can damage it your body in a matter of seconds is certainly very horrifying, but there are preventative measures you can take to have a healthy lifestyle and avoid buildup of deposits in narrow arteries.

1. Cut down on smoking

Limiting your tobacco use directly, as well as through secondhand smoking, is very unhealthy for your heart

2. Be aware of your age

The probability of getting a heart attack increases after the age of 45 for men and after 55 for women

3. Obesity

High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes are caused by obesity. You can reduce heart failure risk by losing just 10% of your weight.

4. Genes

If there is a history of heart failure among your grandparents, parents, or siblings, there is a high chance you might experience it, as well.

5. Stress management

Learning to cope with stress in a healthy manner is very good for your heart's health.

What Now? Immediate Help And Medical Procedures

Do not be afraid of causing panic if you experience symptoms of a heart attack - immediately call 911, do not wait for hours for the symptoms to go away before you seek emergency help. You should rest as you wait for the ambulance and take an aspirin for pain relief. After a heart attack, doctors need to revive the normal blood flow by removing the blockage in the coronary artery by either of the following procedures. - Primary angioplasty: Metal or polymer stents are inserted to widen the damaged artery. - Thrombolysis: Medicine is given to disintegrate the clot in the heart.

Keep Your Heart Healthy!

The world's most common cause of death for the last 15 years has been ischemic heart disease (54% of deaths in 2016). It is important, therefore, to keep yourself informed about how to monitor your heart health and how to take the right steps in case of a heart attack. Regular exercise, a healthy and nutritious diet, as well as weight loss, should be an integral part of your lifestyle to keep your heart running.



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