Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Heart attack

Heart attack
beginning of content

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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Heart attack - Better Health Channel

Heart attack is an emergency. If you have warning signs of heart attack, get help fast. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Heart Attack | Heart Foundation

Understand what a heart attack is, its causes, the warning signs to look out for and what to do if you or someone you know is having one. Read more now

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Angina: treating symptoms and emergency treatment -

Angina pain or discomfort is a symptom of underlying heart problems and must not be ignored, as it may be a sign of impending heart attack.

Read more on myDr website

Heart attack -

A heart attack (myocardial infarction) means the blood supply to part of the heart muscle has become blocked. Early treatment can reduce muscle damage.

Read more on myDr website

Heart attack - Lab Tests Online AU

The heart consists of two pumps - one that pumps blood around the body from the left side of the heart and one that pumps blood to the lungs from the right side of the heart.

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Sharon’s Heart Story | Case Studies | Heart Foundation 

Fit, active and healthy, Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack. However, after experiencing a ‘widow maker’, she counts herself lucky. Read Sharon’s story.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

CK-MB - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for CK-MB

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Chest pain - Better Health Channel

If in doubt about the cause of your chest pain, call an ambulance.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring - InsideRadiology

InsideRadiology provides free and easily accessible, accurate, up to date and credible information about medical imaging tests and procedures.

Read more on InsideRadiology website

All About Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Kidney disease is called a ‘silent disease’ as there are often no warning signs.

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo