Massive Heart Attack- An Overview

What is a Massive Heart Attack?

Heart attack or Myocardial Infarction is regarded as a major health concern as it is often associated with a high death rate. Basically, what happens during a massive heart attack is that a large number of heart muscle tissues die from lack of oxygen due to restriction of blood supply to any part of the heart.

This is caused by blockage in coronary artery, particularly any of the three major coronary arteries (LAD, Circ, or RCA). LAD means Left Anterior Descending, Circ means Circumflex and RCA means Right Coronary Artery.

Issues such as what is a major heart attack or what is a minor heart attack are mainly decided on the basis of the location and amount of blockage in the artery. Massive heart attack is characterized by extensive heart muscle damage and can even prove to be fatal.

Death of heart muscle in turn causes electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue that gives rise to electrical disturbances in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricular fibrillation) that renders the heart ineffective in delivering oxygenated blood to the brain. Lack of oxygenated blood flow for more than five minutes can lead to permanent brain damage.

It is for this reason that the patient is given CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) or electric shock to make the heart pump and restore normal heartbeat. Besides, a combination of severe heart dysfunction and acute heart attack can also cause sudden death.

What Causes a Massive Heart Attack?

Atherosclerosis is the most important cause of massive coronary heart attack. Atherosclerosis is a coronary artery disease characterized by accumulation of plaque inside arteries that ultimately hardens and narrows the arteries thereby obstructing the flow of oxygenated blood the heart and other parts of the body.

It may also encourage the formation of blood clots in the arteries. Coronary Artery Spasm and Coronary Microvascular Disease can also cause heart attack. In addition, unstable Angina is considered as a warning sign of an impending heart attack. Massive heart attack increases the chances of heart failure.

Hereditary factors and increasing age also tend to increase the risk of heart diseases leading to masive hartatack. Factors like high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, obesity, insufficient physical activity, high fat diet and other such lifestyle factors may also increase the risk of developing heart problems.

What Happens When You Have a Massive Heart Attack?


The most common and equally debilitating massive heart attack symptom is chest pain that tends to radiate to back, jaw, neck or either of the arms through nerves. The pain is experienced in the form of pressure, tightness, squeezing or burning sensation in the chest.

Damage done by a massive heart attack causes destruction of heart muscle tissues and affects the functioning of heart adversely. Heart cells start dying due to lack of oxygen. Restoring the oxygenated blood flow as soon as possible can help reduce the damage.

Pain in the area between shoulder blades, back pain, dizziness, anxiety, breathlessness, cold sweats, palpitation, nausea and weakness in general are some other massive heart attack symptoms.

The symptom of chest pain is common in both the sexes but the other less common symptoms of massive heart attack are more likely to be experienced by females. On the other hand, in certain cases sudden death may be caused due to heart attack with no specific warning signs. Therefore, symptoms can vary from one individual to another.

Massive heart attacks are often confused with cardiac arrest and associated with sudden deaths but it is not necessarily true. Though heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest but the two conditions are not the same.

Recovering From a Massive Heart Attack

The extent of recovery depends on the amount of damage done. Massive heart attacks tend to cause permanent damage when treatment is not administered immediately.

The most popular and effective way is to give an adult asprin and take the patient to hospital as soon as possible. Aspirin helps to prevent the formation of clots in the coronary arteries. Clopidogrel or ticlopidine may also be given if the patient is allergic to aspirin.

In case the patient becomes unconscious call 911 and follow their directions to resuscitate him/her. Nitroglycerin helps to reduce pain. Besides, surgeries like angioplasty or intracoronary stenting are performed in the hospital to open a blocked artery. Early reopening of an obstructed coronary artery tends to reduce the amount of damage.

Doctors may prescribe captopril, lisinopril, ramipril, enalapril or other angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors after a heart attack to avoid heart failure. Cardiac rehabilitation programs are also beneficial.

Moreover, for recovering from a massive heart attack, one should also adopt healthy lifestyle changes by avoiding stress, having a low fat diet, engaging in adequate physical activity on a regular basis, avoiding cigarette smoking and keeping diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and other similar conditions in control.


  1. My lovely wonderful dad died and was cremated last week , went to pick my mum up in the car from work, had not eaten his dinner and there was some indigestion stuff in the sink, arrived parked the car turned the engine off looked like he had tried to use his phone when my mum got in the car he was dead. doctors say it was hypertension and thrombosis clot due to hardening of the arteries, he swam 60 lengths per week and walked about 5 miles, he had just had a mot from the doctor in october and he had no signs of any just mentioned, life is cruel did not get to say goodbye he was with my mum for 47 years and they were never apart so now i have to look after her as she suffers with anxiety and depression but is doing good at the moment, R.I.P MY LOVELY DAD WHO I WILL MISS FOREVER XXXXXXX YOUR DARLING DAUGHTER MO

  2. Massive heart attacks can take a loved one very quickly before you relize they are gone. My husband on feb, 26,2012 worked most of the day, came home took a shower we had dinner watched tv talked we laugh, he made me a promise that evening, we made plans for that sunday, he got up said he was going to the bathroom and get something to drink, no longer than a couple of minutes I heard him yell my name unnormally loud and then something hit the floor very hard I ran to to the kitchen to find him laying face down I call 911 they told me to row him over as I turned his face toward me I heard him take his last 2 breaths emergency workers work on him for over an hour before tranporting him to the hospital when I arrive at the hospital the doctor told me he had been with out oxygen for 1 1/2 hrs and there was nothing they could do to save him, I already knew that, the Dr. said it took him so fast that he didn’t think he had time to feel any pain I would have never dreamed that this would happen not on this evening he was in such a great mood . I would of gave anything to have had some kind of warning anything so that I could of got him to the hospital and hopefully save his life. I have lost the love of my life for 32 years my best friend and the half that made us complete.

  3. I worked in a level-1 trauma center/emergency room for about 5 years. One of the triage nurses told me that it is quite common for a patient claiming to be having a heart attack, to have heartburn, and a patient claiming to have heartburn, to be having a heart attack. It seems strange but the two do have a lot of similar symptoms but it is dangerous to ignore them.l

    I have also heard that a number of women experience jaw and neck pain when having a heart attack. This differs from men who tend to have pain in their upper extremities, typically the arm. A close lady friend had just been to the dentist for dental work, and coincidentally, experienced a heart attack the day after. She almost lost her life because she was certain it was a tooth that was causing her jaw pain. Luckily her dentist was able to differentiate the two conditions and sent her immediately to the E/R.

  4. I am lucky. 43 years young and invincible until a couple of weeks ago when I experienced a massive heart attack lasting about 40 minutes and ending in cardiac arrest just outside the ER. An eye opener for me to be sure. I was the poster child for a heart attack waiting to happen. Smoker for 27 years, red meat, salami, binge drinker, zero exercise, loved salt etc… Thank God I get a second chance. Quit smoking and drinking, lowered salt and fat intake, tread mill every day.

    I did notice some pressure in my chest with slight numbness in my left arm two or three nights in a row when lying down for sleep prior to the incident. Little did I know what those minor indications really meant. Keeping my fingers crossed that the damage to my heart is limited and/or repairable.

  5. joyce everts says

    My darling grandad (who i grew up with) died suddenly two days ago… He carried a bag of newspapers to the car for a friend and then sat on the couch feeling out of breath. He was sweaty all over his arms, forehead, hands.. He then got up and stood in the corridor and the next moment he fell over… without warning…
    My granma ran to fetch my aunt at the back as my grandad is a big strong man. They got him up onto the couch and he was complaining he can’t breath… ?? The doctor came and said grandad needed oxygen… No one had oxygen… not the doctor, not the pharmacy, not anyone… Grandad was already unconsious when the ambulance arrived (40 minutes after phoning them). They tried with no luck. When I got there he was already gone. I had no time to say goodbye or how much I loved him. I was confused on how a heart attack could leave him out of breath and feared that he suffocated to death. The doctor ensured us that this was not the case. I will always remember his story telling and the example he was to everybody… No one will ever replace him! I trust that the Lord and all his old friends will enjoy his stories in heaven! So lief vir jou my oupa. Pollie

  6. My father, 60 years old, passed of a massive heart attack a month and a half ago. He went for a stress test a month prior and passed with flying colors. The night before he passed he lit a fire in the backyard and was dancing to Nat King Cole with my mother. He went to sleep that night to where my mom went to wake him up in the morning and he never woke up. It is completely devastating especially after a stress test was just done. Trying to move on with your life is very difficult.

  7. My husband had a massive heart attack on 12-01-2012. He woke on a thursday morning around 2am and was having pain in his back and pressure in his chest and arm, But we thought it was from a old injury that happened about tew weeks before. He went 2 more days like this and then on saturday night we went to the hospital and he was having a massive heart attack..I was shocked he is healthy and didnt really have the systems of a heart attack..They had to air flight him to a heart hospital in tulsa ok. They rushed him into surgery and had to put a stent in his heart .Now we are trying to understand he is on 7 meds and low fat diet and a blood thinner because he has to blood clots that are still in the heart..Iam so scared and really have no one to talk to about this..This has changed our lifes forever.

    • Hi Cindy,
      My husband sounds very much like your husband. My husband has always led a very healthy life. He has no controllable risk factors for heart disease. In March of 2004, he suffered his first heart attack in the left anterior descending artery. He suffered a second heart attack in the left anterior descending artery this past May.

      Familial Hyperlipidimia and stress are his two main risk factors. He eats a vegan diet and, aside from still trying to recover from his last heart attack, he has always been active and carefree.

      My husband received prompt medical care on both occasions which saved his life. He has suffered extensive and irreversible damage to his septum and the anterior wall of his heart.

      All I can say is that I understand your fears. Heart attacks are traumatic for the survivor and for the spouse and they do change your life…not just with lifestyle changes but in every respect. It takes a long time to work through the fears, the sadness, the grief and I know from my own experiences that nobody really “gets it”. In a few months, people who’ve never experienced what you are going through will minimize it and they won’t understand. How can they? I panic when my husband doesn’t answer my calls. I drive home from work to check on him. People think it’s dramatic but until they’ve nearly lost their partner in an abrupt manner like this and until they’ve faced that daily reality that it could happen again they will never understand. I know exactly what you mean about being scared and having nobody to talk to about it. Things got better for me after his first heart attack. There were 8 years in between the first and second…and we got comfortable again. Things felt safe…different but safe for about three years. But now, now I doubt I’ll ever feel that safety again. Now all I can think about is how we can manage our lives more simply so that we don’t have the pressures that cause us stress.

      I don’t know what to say to help you through this but I know what you are going through and I hope my message to you validates how this has impacted your life and how it will continue to impact you.

      They are also doing more studies on spouses which indicate that the risk of suicide, depression and anxiety after a heart attack in a spouse is higher…probably because of the trauma and constant fear.

      Anyway, if you need to talk, send me a message!

  8. My best friends husband had 5 stints put in before christmas 1012 and on Jan 22nd at 515 at night he passed away from they say was massive heart attack we do not understand how he did not survive after haveing all the stints but pete will be missed we love ya alot and know you are in better hands and are suffering no more love ya buddy

  9. Kathleen Barrow-Cole says

    My father died February 28th,2013 from a massive heart attack. My big brother tried to give him CPR but we lost him. Come to find out my father had been complaining of pain in the shoulder and shoulder blades. His friend told him he needed to goto the ER and of course my father shrugged it off. This had been going on for over 3 weeks from what I had heard. I stress to anyone who is experiencing these problems go to the ER ASAP! My father was also a recovering stroke victim (3times) in 1999. Please people if your having any medical problems please goto the doctor or your local ER and get help at once!!!

  10. I am confused. My brother passed away suddenly in the parking lot of a retail store. It was early in the morning and it was going on 2 hrs, I was told, before a witness called 911. He was found in his car and was purple from the neck up. I was told by the medical examiner that he had a blockage that caused cardiac arrest and that it happened fast. I just want reassurance that he did not suffer and that it did happen fast. He told me that nothing could have been done, even if CPR was initiated promptly. I am agonizing over this.

  11. rose schiavello says

    My brother died of a heart attack at the age of 33 …last few months of his life before he died he decided to get healthy and he met the love of his life. He ignored the signs & symptoms until one day he collapsed it was lucky his friends were around him and he was rushed to hospital, he then survived only a month and then had another heart attack & didn’t make it. He couldn’t except his change of life style and didn’t follow the instructions of how to take care of himself after a major heart attack he was depressed… he could not work anymore or walk very far without getting short of breath & moments before he died he had a smoke… it wasn’t worth it so please its important to listen what the doctors tell you STOP DRINKING & SMOKING if you want to stay alive after a heart attack..he was young and a loving man who was struggling afterwards & was told if he felt like he was going to have another attack to call the emergency number cause there was a chance he would and not make it so he was living in fear everyday…

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