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Heart attack

Heart attack
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Heart attack diagnosis

2-minute read

Heart attack warning signs vary.

With a heart attack, every minute counts. Know the warning signs of a heart attack and what to do if you or someone around you experience the warning signs.

If you have chest pain or other warning signs of a heart attack that are severe, get worse quickly, or last 10 minutes, call triple zero (000) immediately and get help fast.

If calling triple zero (000) does not work on your mobile phone, try 112.

If you are rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack, your healthcare team will do a number of tests to find out if you are having a heart attack. These tests will help them to decide the best treatment for you:

  • electrocardiogram (ECG) - during an ECG test, electrical leads are placed on your chest, arms and legs. These leads detect small electrical signals and produce a tracing on graph paper that illustrates the electrical impulses travelling through your heart muscle.
  • blood tests
  • chest X-ray
  • angiogram - this is a special X-ray that shows whether or not your coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. Under a local anaesthetic, a small tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in your arm or groin and guided into the heart. Dye is injected through the catheter into the coronary arteries and X-rays or CT scan are taken. These give detailed information about the condition of these arteries

After a heart attack diagnosis

The time it takes to recover from a heart attack will depend on the amount of damage to the heart muscle. Some people are well enough to return to work after 2 weeks. Others may take several months to recover. The recovery process aims to:

  • reduce your risk of another heart attack by introducing a combination of lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, and medications such as statins which help lower blood cholesterol levels
  • gradually restore your physical fitness so you can resume normal activities. This is known as ‘cardiac rehabilitation’

Most people can return to work after having a heart attack, but how quickly this happens depends on your health, the state of your heart and the kind of work you do.

Read more about life after a heart attack, plus the Heart Foundation can provide more information on heart health at the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12.

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Last reviewed: July 2018

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