What Really Happens to Your Body When You Have A Heart Attack

Heart diseases are more prevalent in the US than they ever were. According to the CDC, one in four deaths in the US is due to a heart ailment, making up to 655,000 Americans annually. Additionally, heart diseases cost the country over $219 billion every year. 

If that doesn’t sound grave enough, the following fact will startle you: every 36 seconds, a person dies in the US due to a cardiovascular illness. 

Considering these statistics, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack so that you can take appropriate action if you or anyone around you has a heart attack. In this guide, we discuss what happens when you have a heart attack. 

From the internal changes in your body to the visible symptoms, you’ll learn sufficiently about what happens during a heart attack. 

What Happens When You Have a Heart Attack?

Keeping it brief, the blood supply to the heart is cut off during a heart attack. Another name of the heart attack is myocardial infarction. 

While some people have warning signs weeks ago, others don’t show any symptoms. Some common signs of a heart attack are: 

  • Trouble breathing
  • Sweating
  • Pain in the upper body region
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Chest pain 

A heart attack could be due to many reasons, with atherosclerosis among the most common ones. It refers to the plaque buildup in your arteries that blocks the blood circulation to the heart. 

Likewise, a blood clot in the arteries could also lead to a heart attack. In some cases, myocardial infarction might be the result of a blood vessel spasm or a torn blood vessel. 

Risk Factors 

Some risk factors for heart attacks are hereditary and cannot be changed, while others are a result of your lifestyle. These risk factors include: 

On the other hand, here are some factors that you can’t change or eliminate. 

What Happens During a Heart Attack?

Let’s discuss the changes in the body leading up to a heart attack. 

  1. Plaque Build-up: If you’re eating cholesterol and fat-rich foods, plaque starts building up in the blood vessels. Since it takes up the available space, there’s less room for blood to pass through. Due to this, the oxygen supply to the body, including the heart, is disturbed. The process is called atherosclerosis
  2. Blood Clotting: Due to excess plaque buildup, the arteries can rupture. The body tries to combat this by forming a blood clot. However, it worsens the blockage, sometimes completely stopping blood flow. The process is called ischemia and leads to a heart attack.
  3. Artery Spasming: In some cases, heart attacks can occur even without plaque buildup. Your coronary artery might tighten temporarily, spasming and cutting off the heart’s blood supply. Such heart attacks occur during resting, at night, or early in the morning. 
  4. Blockage In Blood Flow: In all kinds of heart attacks, blood flow blockage is the underlying cause. When the heart doesn’t get its oxygen supply, it stops functioning. The severity of the heart attack depends on the size of the blockage and its duration. 
  5. Troponin Production: When your heart undergoes damage, it releases troponin proteins ( T and I). A common diagnosis of a heart attack is checking the troponin level. When a doctor sees a troponin spike in your blood, they can confirm a heart attack. 
  6. Organ Death: Since your heart pumps blood to all body parts, if it’s not functioning properly, the rest of the organs will stop working too. If there is a bigger blockage and a severer heart attack, the body might experience permanent damage

What Is Cardiac Arrest?

Blood pressure drops during a heart attack. Due to this, the brain does not get enough oxygen and the brain cells start dying. The process is called cerebral infarction and leads to impaired speech, unconsciousness, and vision loss.

As a result, the patient’s heartbeat stops completely, leading to death. This fatal condition is called cardiac arrest. 

Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as overreacting when it comes to a heart attack. If you or someone around you might be experiencing a heart attack, call an ambulance immediately. 

Aspirin might help lower the damage by preventing clotting during a heart attack while you’re waiting to get medical attention. However, only take aspirin if a healthcare professional has recommended it to you. 

How Do You Heal After a Mild Heart Attack?

For most mild heart attacks, the patients can walk out of the hospital in a day or two, doing moderate-level activities. Although the duration might differ, depending on how severe the heart attack was, most patients can go back to work in two weeks to three months. 

After a mild heart attack, your doctor will prescribe a medication plan. Stick to it and make sure you follow it without a miss. Additionally, you may have to partake in a cardiac rehab program while making some lifestyle changes. 

A cardiac rehabilitation approach can help in managing the condition while boosting your emotional state and quickening recovery. 


Now, you should know what happens when you have a heart attack. In many cases, people don’t notice their symptoms and wait too long to take action. 

However, if you or someone near you is having a heart attack, call your local emergency numbers immediately. You should only drive yourself as a last resort because your symptoms can make you a risk for yourself and others. 

Lastly, quit smoking and follow a healthy, physically-active lifestyle to lower your risk of getting a heart attack.

Please follow and like us:
Was this article helpful?


Before You Go

join our mailing list for daily health tips