Right Arm Numbness and Heart Attack

Causes of numbness in the right arm

Restricted blood flow

When blockages form in the coronary arteries, the heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen because the blood flow is cut off. Chest pain symptoms may be brought on by inadequate blood supply to the heart muscle (angina). This could lead to a heart attack if the coronary artery gets completely blocked.1

Nerve damage

Your nervous system, which communicates commands from your brain to the rest of your body, is made up of nerves. Numbness and tingling can result from damaged or crushed nerves Nerve damage may include tingling or burning sensations, muscular weakness, or odd responses to touch.8 Herniated Disc

A herniated disc happens when the soft center of the disc slips through a crack in its outer part. A herniated disc can press on nerves nearby, which can make the arm feel numb or hurt. A herniated disc can put pressure on nearby nerves, which can cause numbness or pain in the arm.9 

Heart Attack

Heart Attacks are caused when a coronary artery gets blocked. This obstruction causes a reduction in blood flow, which could result in numbness in the left arm. When you have a heart attack, you may also feel pain or pressure in your neck, arm, face, back, or chest.10


Your brain may not receive enough blood and oxygen if a blood artery in it becomes clogged or breaks. Your left arm and other parts of your body may experience numbness as a result of a stroke. Other symptoms include a headache, disorientation, and issues with speech, balance, and coordination.11


Heart attacks can be diagnosed by checking the pulse, temperature, and blood pressure. The are other tests that can be done to check the overall health of the heart such as:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). An electrocardiogram measures the electrical activity of the heart2
  • Blood tests. A sample of blood is taken to be tested for certain heart proteins which are cardiac markers(2). 
  • Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray is used if a heart attack diagnosis is uncertain and used to see if there are other complications because of the heart attack2
  • Echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to build a picture of the inside of the heart2
  • Coronary angiography. This test helps determine if the coronary arteries are blocked or narrowed and, if so, where exactly the blockage or narrowing is2

What is a heart attack? (Briefly)

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, is a serious medical emergency that happens when blood flow to the heart is suddenly cut off, usually by a blood clot.3

Other signs and symptoms of a heart attack

If you are having a heart attack it is possible that you will feel one or more of the following symptoms:4

  • Discomfort, pain, or heaviness in the left side or center of the chest (most common symptom)
  • Excessive sweating for no reason
  • Unusually tired for no reason (common in women) 
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath after doing little exercise (often noticed in older adults)
  • Feeling pain and discomfort in shoulders, back, jaw, neck, or above belly button.
  • Feelings of sudden dizziness or light-headedness

Causes and risk factors of heart attack

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary artery disease, the most prevalent kind of heart disease. This occurs when the coronary arteries are unable to provide your heart muscle with enough oxygen-rich blood. Most of the time, coronary artery disease is brought on by the buildup of waxy deposits known as plaques inside of an individual's arteries, which results in a narrowing of those blood vessels. Atherosclerosis is the term used to describe this plaque build-up. This can happen over several years, and when it does, it can prevent blood from flowing to certain regions of the heart muscle. Angina is brought on by artery-narrowing plaques that develop gradually over time.5

Your artery may eventually have a plaque area that breaks inside. As a result, blood clots start to develop on the plaque's surface. If the clot grows large enough, it might block the flow of blood to the heart. If the blockage is not quickly treated, a piece of the heart muscle will die.5

Atherosclerosis-related blockages cause not all heart attacks . When other heart and blood vessel issues cause a heart attack, it is called myocardial infarction in the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease (MINOCA). MINOCA is more prevalent among younger people, women, and members of racial and ethnic minorities, particularly those of African, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian descent.5

Risk factors you can control:5

  • Lifestyle choices like
  • Poor diet, including consuming too many meals rich in salt or saturated fat 
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking

If you have three or more of these lifestyle choices this raises the risk of heart disease which is called metabolic syndrome. This raises the chance of a heart attack

Risk factors you can’t control:5

  • Age: Men's risk of heart disease rises after age 45 and women's risk rises after age 55 (or after menopause). 
  • Early heart disease in the family: If your mother, sister, or either of your parents were diagnosed with coronary artery disease before the age of 65, you are at a higher risk. 
  • Viral and bacterial infections

Treatment for a heart attack

Your doctor or medical workers may start treating you before they know for sure that you are having a heart attack. A blood clot or plaque that has formed in your heart can be removed as soon as possible to reduce the risk of heart damage, improve heart function, and potentially save your life.6


  • Aspirin and other treatments can stop the formation of new blood clots in people. Aspirin may occasionally result in gastrointestinal bleeding in certain persons
  • Nitrates, often known as nitroglycerin, can enhance blood flow through your coronary arteries and make it simpler for your heart to pump blood. Chest pain can also be treated with nitroglycerin. Some of the side effects of this medicine are nausea, weakness, vomiting, a slow heartbeat, and low blood pressure
  • Thrombolytic medicines, which are also called "clot busters," can help break up blood clots that are blocking the blood flow to your heart. These medicines could cause bleeding problems. You may be given these if you couldn't get to a hospital that can do a percutaneous coronary intervention

Oxygen therapy

Oxygen therapy is a type of treatment in which you breathe in oxygen gas. You can get oxygen treatment through tubes that sit in your nose, a face mask, or a tube inserted in your trachea (windpipe). If you suffer from a condition that causes your blood oxygen levels to be too low, oxygen treatment may be necessary. 

Oxygen treatment may be administered for a brief or extended amount of time in the comfort of one's own home, in a hospital or other medical facility, or some other medical environment. This medication may cause you to have some unwanted side effects, including drowsiness, headaches in the morning, a dry or bloody nose, and weariness. In most cases, oxygen therapy is generally safe. 


You may require one of the following operations in the hospital or afterward to help restore blood flow to your heart. These procedures are done when your doctor confirms that you are having a heart attack.6

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which is often referred to as coronary angioplasty, is a technique that's done without surgery and helps increase blood flow to the heart. It unblocking of blood arteries leading to the heart that have become constricted or obstructed due to the accumulation of plaques. The PCI procedure needs a catheterization of the heart.6

You might get a bruise or feel pain where the catheters were put in. It is also typical to have pain or bleeding where the catheters were implanted. During your follow-up appointment, your doctor will assess your progress.6

Although they are uncommon, serious complications during or after a PCI surgery might occur. These things could be:6

  • Arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, 
  • Bleeding, 
  • Blood vessel damage, 
  • A treatable allergic response to the contrast dye, 
  • The need for an emergency coronary artery bypass graft during the procedure. 
  • Heart attack 
  • Arteries can be damaged 
  • Kidneys could be damaged
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots 

A stent is a tiny tube made of mesh that is used to hold open passageways in the body, such as arteries that are weak or narrow. Stenting is a procedure that is not too invasive. After a stenting procedure, there is no blockage or blood clot in the stent. To avoid severe consequences like blood clots, you might need to take certain medications for a year or more after getting a stent in your artery. These medications include aspirin and other antiplatelet medicines.6

A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is a surgical technique that helps improve inadequate blood flow to the heart. It may be needed if the coronary arteries, which bring blood to the heart muscle, are too narrow or blocked. CABG may also be utilized in an emergency, such as a heart attack.6

Preventing heart problems

You can lower your chance of having a heart attack by giving up bad habits that put you at risk or by getting treatment for coronary artery disease if you already have it. Changes to your lifestyle, such as eating foods that are good for your heart, staying active, quitting smoking, dealing with stress, and staying at a healthy weight, can help prevent heart disease. Even if you already have coronary artery disease, making these improvements can reduce your chance of having a heart attack.5

You should also get treatment for any other health problems that make you more likely to have a heart attack. You should discuss with your doctor if taking aspirin will help you avoid blood clots that can cause a heart attack.5

When to seek emergency medical help

If you believe that you or someone you are with is experiencing a numb arm or other symptoms of a heart attack, you should call emergency services immediately(7).


 If your arm numbness persists and is accompanied by other symptoms that interfere with your life or work, you should be taken to the hospital. There is a wide variety of treatment options available, depending on the cause. However, you can lower your chances of having a heart attack if you eat healthily and are aware of the risk factors.


  1. Cardiac Services BC. Restricted Blood Flow [Internet]. www.cardiacbc.ca. [cited 2022 Sep 2]. Available from: http://www.cardiacbc.ca/health-info/heart-conditions/restricted-blood-flow
  2. NHS. Diagnosis - Heart attack [Internet]. NHS. 2019 [cited 2022 Sep 2]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/diagnosis/
  3. NHS. Overview - Heart attack [Internet]. NHS. 2019 [cited 2022 Sep 2]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/
  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Heart Attack - Symptoms | NHLBI, NIH [Internet]. www.nhlbi.nih.gov. 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 1]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-attack/symptoms
  5. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Heart Attack - Causes and Risk Factors | NHLBI, NIH [Internet]. www.nhlbi.nih.gov. 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 2]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-attack/causes
  6. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Heart Attack - Treatment | NHLBI, NIH [Internet]. www.nhlbi.nih.gov. 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 2]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-attack/treatment
  7. Critoph DC. Signs of heart disease: When to see a doctor | Clinic @78 [Internet]. Clinic @ 78. 2021 [cited 2022 Sep 2]. Available from: https://clinic78.co.uk/blog/signs-of-heart-disease-when-to-see-a-doctor/
  8. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke [Internet]. www.ninds.nih.gov. 2018 [cited 2022 Sep 2]. Available from: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/peripheral-neuropathy-fact-sheet#3208_3
  9. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Herniated Disc – Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Treatments [Internet]. Aans.org. 2019 [cited 2022 Sep 2]. Available from: https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Herniated-Disc
  10. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Heart Attack - What Is a Heart Attack? | NHLBI, NIH [Internet]. www.nhlbi.nih.gov. 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 1]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-attack
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke Signs and Symptoms [Internet]. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 2]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/signs_symptoms.htm
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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Hana Hailu

Master's degree, Brain Science, University of Glasgow

Hana Hailu is an accomplished academic with a strong foundation in the field of brain science and pharmacology. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Brain Science from the prestigious University of Glasgow (2021-2022). Prior to this, Hana earned her Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Applied Pharmacology from Queen Margaret University, where she studied from September 2017 to September 2021. With her deep knowledge and dedication, Hana is poised to make significant contributions to the world of neuroscience and pharmacology.

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