Can scaring someone give them a heart attack?

It’s possible to scare someone into having a heart attack, but it’s unlikely.

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA) say that the risk of having a heart attack is 2 percent for the first 30 minutes of a panic attack. For the next 10 to 20 minutes, the risk is 1 percent.

That’s actually a lot lower risk than the risk of a heart attack for someone who has a heart attack.

Why should I be concerned?

Scaring someone into having a heart attack can be done by:

  • Shouting loudly or repeatedly
  • Punching or slapping
  • Throwing objects at them

A heart attack is a medical emergency, so if you’re not sure if someone is having a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency services number immediately.

While you should never try to scare someone into having a heart attack, scaring them can be a helpful first step in getting them to seek help.

If you’re concerned about someone’s heart health, you can:

  • Have them check in with their doctor to see how they’re doing.
  • Ask about any symptoms they’re experiencing, including chest pains or a racing heart.
  • Ask if they’ve had a heart attack before.
  • See if they’re taking any heart medications.
  • Ask if they’ve had any prior cardiac arrests.
  • Ask if they plan to have surgery.

If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to contact their doctor or the hospital.

How is a heart attack diagnosed?

A heart attack is diagnosed with a physical exam and a review of their medical history.

A healthcare provider will check your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Pulse
  • Breathing
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Body temperature
  • Other physical exam findings

If you’re having chest pain, a healthcare provider may check your:

  • Heart rate
  • Oxygen saturation

If you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Coughing up blood
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in your left arm, side, or back
  • Chest discomfort or pressure

How is a heart attack treated?

Treatment for a heart attack depends on the severity of the heart attack and the condition of the person.

If you’re having a heart attack, you’ll be taken to the hospital and treated with medication, a procedure, or both.

Medications

Medications that can help control heart rate and blood pressure include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: These drugs lower blood pressure and relax blood vessels.
  • Beta-blockers: These drugs slow the heart rate and lower pressure on the heart.
  • Calcium channel blockers: These drugs slow the heart rate and relax blood vessels.
  • Digitalis: This medication is an antiarrhythmic. It has the effect of slowing the heart rate.

Surgery

Depending on the severity of the heart attack and the condition of the person, a doctor may recommend surgery to repair a heart attack.

Surgery for a heart attack usually requires a cardiac catheterization. During this procedure, a doctor inserts a tube with a narrow, tiny balloon on the end into a blood vessel in your heart to widen a clogged blood vessel and allow blood to flow freely again.

If the blocked blood vessel is in the heart, you may also need:

  • A pacemaker or defibrillator
  • An implantable cardioverter defibrillator

What about a person with anxiety?

It’s possible to have a heart attack while being treated for anxiety.

In a heart attack, the flow of blood to the heart muscle is blocked. When the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen, it can be very damaged, resulting in a heart attack.

People with anxiety may experience anxiety or panic attacks. These are a reaction to a frightening or threatening situation and usually include a feeling of fear, terror, or dread.

People with anxiety are more likely to experience a heart attack.

These anxiety attacks are also a medical emergency. Call 911, or your local emergency services number, and seek emergency medical attention if you or someone you know is experiencing chest pain, rapid heartbeat, severe chest pain, or a heart attack.

How can you prevent a heart attack?

If you’re having a panic attack and you feel you need to get to a hospital, you should:

  • Remain calm.
  • Don’t be afraid to get help.
  • Get yourself to safety.
  • Seek help if you need it.

If you’re having a heart attack, you should:

  • Remain calm and talk with someone you trust.
  • Stay with someone until help arrives.
  • Stay with someone until they’re able to see your blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Get help right away if you’re having chest pain, a heart attack, or other symptoms.

If you’re concerned about something happening to you, you should:

  • Remain calm and contact your healthcare provider or 911.
  • Talk with someone you trust.

What is the outlook for someone with anxiety?

The outlook for someone with anxiety depends on their age, their overall health, and how quickly they seek treatment.

For example, young people who have anxiety may be able to manage it with medication and therapy.

However, if they’re having frequent panic attacks or anxiety attacks that keep them from working, they should seek help from a doctor or mental health professional.

How can I lower my risk of a heart attack?

If you’re concerned about your heart health, you should:

  • Get regular checkups with your doctor.
  • Get a physical exam.
  • Get a stress test if you’ve been working and feel too anxious to exercise.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Get a cholesterol test if you’re eating too much fat or calories.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Keep your blood pressure under control.
  • See your doctor for a stress test if you have high blood pressure.
  • Get a referral to a cardiologist.

If you have high blood sugar, you should:

  • Eat a healthy diet and limit other sources of sugar.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
  • Eat a healthy amount of fiber.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Manage stress.
  • Eat a balanced diet.

If you smoke, you should:

  • Limit or avoid tobacco products.
  • Get regular physical activity.
  • Reduce or quit alcohol.
  • Get regular checkups.
  • Talk to your doctor about counseling.

If you have a heart condition, you should:

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet.
  • Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Control stress and anxiety.
  • Get a referral to a cardiologist or vascular surgeon.

Coping and support

It’s important to remember that anxiety is a normal feeling that’s not usually a sign of a problem.

In fact, people with anxiety may find relief from their symptoms.

For example, if you feel that you’re worried you’ll never be able to have a normal life, you can feel empowered by the knowledge that many people experience anxiety in their lives.

If you’re feeling anxious about your heart health, you can:

  • Talk with someone you trust about your feelings.
  • Talk with your doctor about your worries.
  • Get a referral to a mental health professional.

You can also:

  • Find support groups for people with anxiety.
  • Find a counselor for your mental health needs.

When to see a doctor?

If you’re concerned that you have anxiety, you should see a doctor or mental health professional.

They can help you understand the root cause of your symptoms, and they can refer you to a mental health specialist if they think you need one.

If you’re experiencing chest pain, you should call 911 immediately. You should also call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing:

  • A heart attack
  • Chest pain
  • A rapid heartbeat

Preventing heart attacks

To help prevent heart attacks, you should:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit or quit alcohol.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage cholesterol.
  • Get regular physical activity, or at least a moderate amount.

If you’re at high risk of heart disease and have already had a heart attack, you should:

  • Get a referral for a cardiac rehabilitation program.
  • Work with a cardiac rehabilitation program.
  • Limit or quit smoking.

If you think you’re at high risk of heart disease, you should:

  • Talk with your doctor or another healthcare professional.
  • Work with a dietician.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Get regular physical activity, or at least a moderate level.

It’s also important to get a referral for a cardiac rehabilitation program if you’ve had a heart attack.

The bottom line

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked.

Scaring someone into having a heart attack can be an effective first step to getting them to seek help.

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