ZocdocAnswersWhat will my pulse feel like during a heart attack?

Question

What will my pulse feel like during a heart attack?

Just curious, if I ever experience a heart attack, will my pulse be super fast or super slow?

Answer

Actually, there are many symptoms that help diagnose a heart attack, but changes in the pulse rate are usually not among them. Please visit your primary care physician or cardiologist to discuss this further. The most common symptom of a heart attack is discomfort or a feeling of pressure below the breastbone in the lower part of the chest that does not go away, or goes away briefly but quickly returns. Occasionally, cardiac pain is felt only in the stomach and feels like a burning, crampy, or even sharp sensation. Cardiac chest pain can sometimes radiate to the left side of the chest, one or both arms, the neck, the back or the abdomen. Another fairly common symptom of a heart attack is shortness of breath. Other symptoms sometimes associated with a heart attack are anxiety, lightheadedness, feeling cold and clammy, and sometimes nausea. Changes in the pulse rate may occur, but they are generally not significant, consistent from patient to patient, or even particularly common. Part of the body's response to a heart attack is the release of adrenaline, so if changes to the pulse rate occur, a fast heart rate is more common than a slow one. A big problem with changes in the heart rate is that they are non-specific and for that reason they are not very useful in diagnosing a heart attack. Stated another way, an increased heart rate may tell your doctor that something is wrong, but it gives little information about exactly what that may be. If you are concerned that you may be at risk for a heart attack, or if you have ever experienced any of the above symptoms, you need to make an appointment to be seen by a primary care physician or cardiologist. Only examination in person by a physician can determine whether or not you have, or are at risk for, heart disease.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.