The relation between Blood Pressure and Heart Attack


Higher than 1 million individuals suffer from a heart attack every year in the United States (US). If the treatment gets delayed, it could be life-threatening. Out of various people who die due to a heart attack, 50% of the individuals die during the first symptom and even before the hospital arrives. A brief on heart attack is that the muscles of the heart do not get enough blood supply resulting in damage or harm. The most major symptom is chest pain. The danger for a heart attack is higher for males above 45 years and women above 55 years. The most common risk factors include smoking and overweight or obesity.

What is a heart attack?

Heart attack or Myocardial Infarction or cardiac infarction and coronary thrombosis. This occurs when the coronary arteries that provide blood (filled with oxygen) to the muscles of the heart are blocked. This block is majorly due to a clot in the blood. When the blood flow is stopped, the muscle of the heart is affected due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients for a duration of time and may get damaged permanently.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is defined as the “force of blood as it’s pushed from your heart and circulated throughout your body.” As we know when a heart attack occurs, the flow of blood to a part of your heart is clogged. This might result in a decrease in blood pressure. In very few individuals, there could be a slight change in the blood pressure at all. In a few instances, blood pressure could also increase.

Any sort of change that may happen when a heart attack occurs is uncertain, so therefore the physicians do not consider them as a sign of blood pressure. During a heart attack, there could be changes in the blood pressure, but various other signs and symptoms are noticeable.

If an individual’s blood pressure is not under control, it can cause damage to the heart and other organs such as the kidney and brain. It could also be termed as a “Silent Killer”, as sometimes it becomes difficult to realize the symptoms for high blood pressure. If blood pressure is controlled by giving medicines or lifestyle changes, then it will reduce the risk of heart conditions and heart attacks.

How is Blood Pressure Measured?

Two ways to measure blood pressure (mm/Hg):

Systolic blood pressure: It is “the pressure in the arteries, as the heart pumps blood out to the body.”

Diastolic Blood pressure: It is “the pressure in the arteries between the heartbeats.”

When you refer to a blood pressure chart, the number which is at the top is the systolic blood pressure and the number which is placed below is diastolic blood pressure.

Categories for Blood Pressure Systolic (mm/Hg) Diastolic (mm/Hg)
Normal <120 <80
Elevated/High 120-129 <80
Stage I Blood Pressure 130-139 80-89
Stage II Blood Pressure 140 or > 140 90 or >90
Hypertensive crisis >180 > 120

How to check whether the blood pressure is high?

A physician checks the blood pressure various times on different days, before coming to a conclusion of an individual having high blood pressure. It is claimed to be hypertension when the readings are constantly on a higher side i.e. 140/90 or 130/80 mm/Hg. To test blood pressure is very fast and rapid. To measure Blood pressure equipment is used i.e. sphygmomanometer. Blood pressure is measured while a person sits, lies down or relaxed. Before taking the blood pressure, do keep the below things into consideration i.e. avoid drinking coffee or smoking cigarette, 30 minutes before; Secondly: Short sleeves should be worn; Thirdly: Empty the urinary bladder before measuring the blood pressure; fourthly: Before testing sits for 5-10 minutes.

An informative guide to blood pressure increasing or decreasing during a heart attack

The measurement of blood pressure is by analyzing the blood flow pressure through the arteries that strain or exert on the arterial wall. When a heart attack occurs, the flow of blood to an area of the heart is decreased or stopped, due to clogging of the artery due to a clot in the blood. Due to lack of the supply of blood, the area of the heart which does not receive oxygen and other nutrients for it to function appropriately.

The decrease in Blood Pressure

As mentioned before, blood pressure decreases when the heart attack occurs. Low blood pressure is also termed as hypotension. The decrease in blood pressure could be due to various reasons such as:

The tissue of the heart is injured due to which the pumping of the heart is less: When a heart attack occurs the supply of the blood to the heart is clogged or stopped. This results in the killing of the tissues that formulate the muscle of the heart. Due to the death of the heart tissue, the quantity of blood the heart pumps to the different parts of the body is reduced.

Response to pain: There would be a vasovagal (faint feeling might be due to a drop in the blood pressure) response in few individuals due to the pain of the heart attack. When there are emotions such as excess stress or pain, it triggers a vasovagal response due to pain from the heart attack.

There is over-drive of your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS): The PNS causes the body to be in the resting stage, which results in the lowering of the blood pressure. When a heart attack occurs, it causes the PNS to go over-driven resulting in a decrease in the blood pressure.

Increase in Blood Pressure

Everybody will not experience a decrease in blood pressure, a decrease in blood pressure is not the only sign and symptom for heart attack. Few of them may undergo an increase in the blood pressure which is also termed as Hypertension when a heart attack occurs. This occurs due to a spike (increase) in the hormones such as adrenaline that increases when there is a situation that is stressful like a heart attack or any heart illness/disease.

The blood pressure also increases when a heart attack results in the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) goes into an overdrive reaction. SNS is in charge of any “flight or fight infections.”

If the blood pressure changes, is it a sign of heart attack?

Blood pressure is not a precise indicator of a heart attack. Heart attack can result in an increase or decrease in the blood pressure, but always a change in the reading of the blood pressure does not mean it is caused due to heart-based conditions or illness. The best way to find out about the heart attack is to study another symptom. A heart attack could cause either various symptoms, few symptoms or none of them at all.

One of the common symptoms of a heart attack is chest pain. This symptom is not the only one. Other symptoms for heart attack are:

  • In the chest area, there is mild to major squeezing feeling.
  • Pain is present in the arm, mainly on the left.
  • A sudden occurrence of chill in your body along with abnormal sweating
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Pain in the jaw, neck, and back pain in the upper part of the body
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting sensations
  • Faint feeling
  • Breathlessness
  • These symptoms are better indicators for heart attack rather than only considering the reading for blood pressure.

Is there a difference in the symptoms between men and women?

The symptoms could differ between men and women but the same and the common symptom is that of chest pain, that occurs in both men and women. Women could experience different symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, back and jaw pain. As per the American Heart Association, the main factor for death in the United States among women are heart conditions.

Blood Pressure and Heart Attack

The risk of heart disease is increased if high blood pressure remains the same and not treated. If the blood pressure is high as mentioned, it shows how hard the heart is working to provide blood to different parts of the body i.e. supply is through arteries. Therefore the doctors have to keep a check on the blood pressure and other important parameters.

When there is an excessive increase in fat, cholesterol, and other substances, in the arteries itself, is termed as plaque. With time, the arteries get harder and result in the arteries getting narrowed. When the arteries narrow, it causes an increase in more pressure, for the blood to pass through the arteries and to be supplied to different parts of the body. There is the formation of a blood clot if the plaque splits from the arterial wall.

As we know heart attack is caused due to disruption or blockage of the blood flow to the heart due to the formation of plaque or blood clots.

An increase in your blood pressure is not always a severe issue. Some of the healthy people also get raised blood pressure at intervals due to reasons such as stress or physical activity.

Ways to diagnose heart diseases

If there is any suspicion of a heart attack, the physician or nurse will send directly to the hospital for checking of a heart attack. The tests include ECG or Electrocardiograph, Cardiac Enzyme Tests or Chest X-Ray.

Ways to avoid heart disease caused due to hypertension

Initially, the doctor has to treat blood pressure. They might be started with medicines related to the condition like diuretics (removing excess fluid from the body), beta-blockers, ACE Inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers and vasodilators (relaxes the blood vessels)

Other ways to keep the condition under control would be as mentioned below

  • Diet: Important to restrict Sodium in the diet to approximately 1500-2000 mg/dl. Follow a DASH Diet I.e. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Include foods high in Potassium, Fiber, fruits, and vegetables. Reduce the intake of total calories to reduce weight. Also important to reduce the intake of foods such as sugar, fats, cholesterol, and others.

  • Keeping a check on weight: Important to check the weight daily or weekly basis after emptying the bladder, work on improving the activity levels, important to take proper rest between the activities.
  • Avoiding tobacco, smoking and excess alcohol intake.
  • Check-up’s by the doctor regularly: On a daily visit to the doctor, to be healthy it is important to go for a timely visit to the doctor to avoid any further worse condition.
  • Keeping diabetes i.e. blood sugars under control.
  • Important to keep blood cholesterol levels under control.
  • Avoiding any sort of stress or depression.
  • Getting good quality and proper sound sleep.

When to visit a physician

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers from a heart attack. To be visited a doctor, when chest pain or discomfort in the chest, along with or without any of the symptoms as mentioned below:

  • Pain in the single or both arm
  • Pain occurring in the neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Light-headedness
  • Even if the blood pressure i.e. the systolic blood pressure increases i.e. 180 mm/Hg and diastolic blood pressure i.e. 110 mm/Hg, the individual has to visit a doctor. If the blood pressure increases and reaches this range, it increases the danger of getting a heart attack.



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