How do I know if a heart attack has occurred?

A healthcare provider can diagnose a heart attack based on several assessment findings …

  • The patient’s complete medical history
  • A physical examination
  • An electrocardiogram to discover any abnormalities caused by damage to the heart
  • Blood testing to detect abnormal levels of certain enzymes in the bloodstream

Heart attack: a signal of heart disease

Although you may have warning signs prior to a heart attack, the heart attack itself may be your first symptom of an underlying problem: cardiovascular disease. Coronary artery disease (CAD), for example, narrows and hardens your arteries around the heart, or atherosclerosis, is often responsible for artery-blocking clots.

To diagnose the condition, heart attack patients may be asked to undergo a number of diagnostic tests and procedures. By learning what these tests are and why they’re being done, you’ll feel more confident. These tests are important and help the doctor determine if a heart attack occurred, how much your heart was damaged, and what degree of CAD you may have.

Diagnostic measures, non-invasive and invasive

Tests screen your heart and help the doctor determine what treatment and lifestyle changes will keep your heart healthy and prevent serious future medical events. There are non-invasive diagnostic tests and invasive diagnostic tests.

Likely procedures

If you’ve had a heart attack, you may have already had certain procedures to help you survive your heart attack and diagnose your condition.

  • Thrombolysis: Many heart attack patients have undergone thrombolysis, a procedure that involves injecting a clot-dissolving agent to restore blood flow in a coronary artery. This procedure is administered within a few (usually three) hours of a heart attack.
  • Coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG): If thrombolysis treatment isn’t done immediately after a heart attack, many patients will need to undergo coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) later to improve blood supply to the heart muscle.