How Long Does a Heart Attack Last?

How Long Does a Heart Attack Last? Recognize & Respond Quickly

Heart attacks are a major cause of death in the United States, and they are often misunderstood, just like Sudden Cardiac Arrest. The duration of a heart attack can vary from person to person. Some heart attacks last only a few minutes, while others can go on for a few hours or even a whole day. In this article, we will explain what happens during a heart attack, how to recognize the warning signs, and provide tips on how you can prevent a heart attack in your daily life.

Understanding Non-Sudden Cardiac Events

Although people often use the terms “heart attack” and “Sudden Cardiac Arrest” interchangeably, they are actually two different medical problems caused by different conditions. Both of these conditions affect the heart muscle and require immediate medical attention.

Around 805,000 heart attacks occur in the United States each year, according to the CDC. During a heart attack, it’s crucial to act quickly because the heart can suffer serious and possibly irreversible damage within about 30 minutes. Recognizing the signs of a heart attack can be life-saving, even for yourself.

Recognizing the Indications of a Heart Attack

A heart attack is often caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This plaque can create a blockage, which reduces or completely stops blood flow to the heart. When the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood, it starts to die.

It’s important to know how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack so that you can seek medical help quickly. Most heart attacks cause discomfort in the chest, which can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. This uncomfortable sensation in the middle of the chest can last for a few minutes to several hours, or it may come and go. Sometimes, this pain can also spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back, and abdomen.

Silent heart attacks, on the other hand, are harder to detect because their warning signs are subtle. These symptoms can be mistaken for normal aging pains, fatigue, indigestion, or heartburn. Interestingly, silent heart attacks are more common in men than in women.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, it’s crucial to call 911 for medical help right away. Heart attack symptoms can differ in their intensity and level of pain, so some people might consider driving themselves to the hospital. However, it’s extremely important to understand that under no circumstances should you drive yourself to the hospital if you suspect a heart attack.

Symptoms in Men vs. Women 

The symptoms of a heart attack can be different for men and women. It’s important to know that most of what we know about heart disease is based on studies focused on middle-aged men. As a result, men often show what is considered the “classic” symptoms of a heart attack, such as chest pain, pressure, or discomfort that may spread to the arm, neck, or jaw.

On the other hand, women may experience symptoms that are not commonly recognized as signs of a heart attack. These symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, back pain, or jaw pain. These signs can be subtle and may not be immediately thought of as heart-related, which can lead to delayed treatment and potentially worse outcomes.

How Long Does a Heart Attack Last? 

A heart attack can occur suddenly with strong symptoms, but most of the time it starts slowly with mild discomfort and pain. The symptoms can gradually worsen over a few hours or days before the heart attack actually happens. The duration of the attack can vary depending on factors like the underlying cause and its severity.

The longer someone experiences symptoms of a heart attack, the more damage can occur. That’s why it’s crucial to seek emergency medical treatment as soon as you suspect a heart attack. Sometimes people may mistake heart attack symptoms for other causes of chest pain, such as panic attacks, anxiety, digestive issues, or muscle pain. However, it’s better to have a false alarm than to wait until it’s too late.

Recovery from a heart attack can also take different lengths of time. It may take a few weeks or several months before a person feels well enough to return to their normal routine, especially if they were previously more active.

Know Your Risks

The first step to prevent heart attacks is understanding the risks involved. Research shows that the most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease. Heart disease is the main reason why many people in the US pass away, and it affects people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. 

For Black people, white individuals, American Indian and Alaska Native populations, heart disease is the top cause of death in the country. Among Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Latinx individuals, heart disease is the second most common cause of death after cancer.

Risk factors related to pre-existing conditions:


High blood pressure

High cholesterol


Lifestyle-related risk factors:

Smoking and vaping

Unhealthy eating habits

Excessive alcohol consumption


Lack of exercise

Other risk factor:

Increasing age

How to Prevent Heart Attacks 

After understanding your risk factors, the most effective way to prevent a heart attack is to make healthy choices in your daily life. For adults, this means engaging in 2½ hours of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. It also involves avoiding smoking, excessive drinking, and consuming a balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods.

Regular visits to the doctor and properly managing any pre-existing conditions you may have are also important in reducing the risk of a heart attack.

Medical Disclaimer:

The Calmed Equipment’s website provides information in good faith, but they do not guarantee the accuracy, validity, or completeness of the information. Any medical or health information on the website is for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice.

Under no circumstances will Calmed be liable to you for any loss or damage resulting from the use of the website or the information provided on it. Your use of the website and reliance on any information is entirely at your own risk.