Heart Attack From High Blood Pressure

Every body receives blood through its vascular system that consists of arteries and veins. In order for the blood to reach all the organs of the body it requires some pressure and this pressure is known as blood pressure. 

When the blood pressure exceeds certain limits and there’s high blood pressure, it leads to a condition known as hypertension. Hypertension is one of the main causes of all the cardiovascular diseases of the body namely, stroke, arrhythmias, heart attack and atrial fibrillation.

These days the incidences of heart attack are increasing probably because of unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits that eventually contributes to increased blood pressure and that leads to cardiovascular diseases. 

Heart attack or also known as cardiac arrest takes place when not enough blood reaches the cardiac muscle and the more time it takes to restore the blood flow to the muscle, more dangerous the situation becomes and can even be fatal.

Heart attack is felt like a sudden pain or tightness in the chest and weakness in the arms and legs, there’s shortness of breath and the patient having a heart attack usually faints if not paid attention to at the earliest. If the patient is not provided with medical help as soon as possible, the condition can be fatal too.

About heart attack

Heart attack is also known as myocardial infarction. With the leading lifestyle in today's world, heart attack has become one of the most common cardiovascular diseases. It is generally more common in old age, especially with men and women suffering from high blood pressure but there could be other reasons that lead to a heart attack too.

Heart attack is a condition where blood supply to the heart muscles is restricted or stopped completely. The more time goes by without adequate medical treatment, the more damage can happen to the heart muscles and can lead to permanent damage of the muscle. 

This stoppage in the flow of blood to the heart is because of many reasons, the most common of which is atherosclerosis. 

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which there is deposition of fat or plaque on the inner walls of the arteries due to which the blood doesn't get all the space to flow smoothly and hence blood pressure increases. If this plaque is dislodged from the artery wall, it moves freely with the blood stream and eventually forms a blood clot around it, leading to blockage of the artery and acting as an obstruction for the blood to flow further to the heart. 

To be able to recognize when a person is having a heart attack and provide him with medical help at the earliest, one needs to have knowledge about the symptoms of heart attack. 

Some of the most common symptoms of heart attack are - 

  • Chest pain or chest discomfort - The pain is usually felt either in the centre or on the left side of the chest, it can be a distinct pain or tightness felt in the chest. Many patients complain of a squeezing feeling in the left side of the chest
  • Shortness of breath - This is seen during chest pain or before the pain starts. For some patients this is the only symptom observed while getting a heart attack. Shortness of breath can either be seen while doing some physical activity or when the patient is simply resting
  • Discomfort in the upper body - The pain in the chest radiates to the left arm, neck and even towards the head of the patient. A feeling of weakness is felt in the upper body, the patient is unable to lift his left arm

There are also some of other symptoms that may not be seen in all patients such as nausea, dizzine and with prolonged symptoms the patient may faint and collapse on the surface.

About high blood pressure

Constant high blood pressure in an individual leads to a condition known as hypertension. Hypertension is nothing but when the blood pressure increases beyond the nominal values.

Our body's blood pressure is measured in two values, one is the systolic pressure (when the heart contracts to pump out blood to all the organs of the body) and other is diastolic pressure (when the heart relaxes).

An increase in the systolic pressure is associated with high risks that would lead to cardiovascular diseases. 

Hypertension is diagnosed by measuring the blood pressure at at least two different occasions or days and if both the times the measured systolic pressure is =/> 140mmHg and the diastolic pressure is =/> 90mmHg, it is considered as hypertension. 

The reasons contributing to developing hypertension are both environmental and pathophysiological. The factors can easily be manipulated and controlled in every condition, such as living a simple stress-free life with a less salt and balanced diet. However, if the condition is genetic then modification can be tricky. 

Hypertension is known as a "silent killer" because many a times the symptoms are not seen and one can only be diagnosed with hypertension after regularly measuring the blood pressure.

However, if the symptoms are to be seen then they usually include, profuse sweating under stress, intolerance to heat, nosebleed or epistaxis, morning headaches, irregular heartbeats, impaired vision, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

What happens to blood pressure during a heart attack

There are many symptoms that concern with a heart attack and unfortunately blood pressure values might not be one of them.

If a patient is hypertensive then the risk of having a heart attack increases significantly because that predicts all the hard work that your heart has to do to pump out blood for the whole body. However, blood pressure might increase, decrease or remain constant during a heart attack.

Increases - When the patient is experiencing a heart attack, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) of the body might get triggered which will lead to production of adrenaline in the body, hormone responsible for the "fight or flight" response. This increase in the production of adrenaline and stimulation of sympathetic nervous system might increase the blood pressure in the body but it's not true for every case.

Decreases - While having a heart attack the patient is likely to experience extreme chest pain and any kind of pain in the body stimulates parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which in turn stimulates vasovagal response in the body. The vasovagal response is responsible for decrease in blood pressure in the body. 

Also, a heart attack is caused when a part of the heart muscle doesn't receive adequate blood supply and that leads to decreased oxygen supply to the body. So, when not all the muscles of the heart are working to pump blood to all the organs, the blood pressure might decrease. 

This stands true for some patients, they experience low blood pressure during a heart attack but it cannot be concluded as one of the criteria to judge whether a patient is experiencing a heart attack or not.

Management and prevention 

Ways to manage and prevent heart attack

Heart attack is caused by various aetiological factors. The risk of a heart attack increases due to the following reasons - 

  • An unhealthy diet
  • Being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Regular smoking
  • Consumption of excess alcohol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • High cholesterol diet
  • High blood pressure or hypertension 
  • Family history

In order to prevent heart attack, one need to work on the above listed factors and maintain a healthy lifestyle by -

  • Eating a balanced, low on cholesterol and less fat diet.
  • Working out regularly to keep the weight or fat percentage of the body in check.
  • Regulate the blood sugar level
  • Discontinue the habit of smoking
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol consumed 
  • If you are hypertensive then regulate the blood pressure levels time to time

If you experience a heart attack or anyone near you, the management as follows -

  • Call 911 (for America) immediately 
  • Do not crowd around the patient, blocking the airway
  • Start CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) till any medical help arrives. This will keep the patient alive and reduce chances of death
  • Use AED (automated external defibrillator) if available immediately
  • If you are having a heart attack then immediately after calling 911, chew a tablet of aspirin (325mg) it inhibits formation of clot and will increase your chances of survival by 25%

Ways to manage and prevent high blood pressure

High blood pressure once diagnosed for someone stays with them almost all their life. Ways to not get in the league of hypertensive patients is -

  • Eat heart healthy food, rich in fibre, lean proteins and low in fat and cholesterol.
  • If you smoke then quit smoking, smoking has a disastrous effect on the blood vessels and contribute in thickening of the arteries. 
  • Limit consumption of alcohol.
  • Exercise regularly to keep your heart and body healthy and fit.
  • Limit salt intake in the diet to less than 5g daily.

Sometimes when hypertension runs in the family and it's in your genes, it becomes inevitable to escape from the risk of high blood pressure. In that case, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and consulting your doctor on a regular basis is the only solution.

If you happen to get diagnosed with hypertension, never stop your medicines abruptly or without your physicians consent.

Make it a habit to get your blood pressure checked on a monthly basis. You can even check your blood pressure at home by using an electronic sphygmomanometer.


What level of blood pressure can cause a heart attack?

If your systolic pressure, that is the above value exceeds 180 mmHg and diastolic pressure that is the lower value exceeds 120mmHg you need to immediately see your doctor as blood pressure more than this can put you at high risk of heart attack.

American heart association recommends people who are hypertensive to maintain blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or below.

Can you stop a heart attack before it happens?

Definitely. Heart attack can be prevented before it occurs. Some patients start to feel symptoms hours before, in that case they should chew and swallow tablet aspirin (325mg) and sublingual nitroglycerin. However, best method would be to a doctor as soon as you feel the first symptom.

When to seek medical attention

Seek immediate medical help when you first feel the symptom of a heart attack, for which you should have enough knowledge about all the symptoms of heart attack. 

Never drive yourself to the hospital in case you're the one having an heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number and explain your symptoms.

If while regularly checking your blood pressure you observe a constant high in the blood pressure, seek medical help and get yourself appropriately diagnosed by various other tests done to draw a conclusion whether you're hypertensive or not.


Hypertension is one of the most common factor to develop heart diseases, stroke and other life threatening conditions. 

Healthiest blood pressure that should be maintained is 120/80 mmHg. If your blood pressure is at a constant high of more than 140/90 mmHg, you must see a doctor and get yourself tested to understand if there are other underlying conditions.

A constant increase in the blood pressure puts you at a higher risk of getting a heart attack. To maintain a healthy blood pressure one should live a healthy life with regular physical activity and balanced diet.

If hypertension is genetic in your family then you should take more precautions and get yourself tested regularly because sometimes it can also be asymptomatic. 


  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hypertension
  2. Vaughan AS, Coronado F, Casper M, Loustalot F, Wright JS. County-Level Trends in Hypertension-Related Cardiovascular Disease Mortality-United States, 2000 to 2019external icon. J Am Heart Assoc. 2022 Apr 5;11(7):e024785.
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heart_attack.htm
  4. US Preventive Services Task Force. Curry SJ, Krist AH, Owens DK, Barry MJ, Caughey AB, Davidson KW, Doubeni CA, Epling JW, Kemper AR, Kubik M, Landefeld CS, Mangione CM, Silverstein M, Simon MA, Tseng CW, Wong JB. Risk Assessment for Cardiovascular Disease With Nontraditional Risk Factors: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2018 Jul 17;320(3):272-280. [PubMed]
  5. Cardiovascular Disease, Olvera Lopez E, Ballard BD, Jan A.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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