A heart attack, medically known as myocardial infarction, is a condition where the muscle death at a large scale of the heart causes the organ to seize and stop functioning. A common affliction of the heart, it occurs when the blood flow to the heart muscles itself has been interrupted for a long enough time, long enough that the heart muscle dies out. As for the time period, heart attacks will usually be preceded by chest pains that radiate from the chest to the lower jaw and the extremities (upper limbs, especially the left one) for varied amounts of time, depending on the actual blockage of the arteries.

In either case, a premonition is usually there of a heart attack. However, it is imperative to understand how long does it take for a heart attack to happen?

Because the heart continues to function even when the heart muscle starts to die off where enough oxygen isn’t getting supplied, there are usually signs before a full-on heart attack presents itself. As mentioned beforehand, pains in the chest area, which radiate to the lower jaw and the left shoulder, are usually a sign of a heart attack in the making. It’s a sign that the heart itself isn’t getting much blood, and these signs should not be ignored and should be referred to a physician. 

However, times for heart attacks vary, and how fast does a heart attack happen is not relevant to how far back in time an individual has been experiencing chest pains. The usually accepted definition of the time from the onset of the initial symptoms and the actual occurrence of losing consciousness is somewhere between two minutes to twenty minutes, tops.

This means that beyond twenty minutes, the damage gets too critical to be reverted back to normal, and if one starts experiencing chest pains of moderate to high intensity, first aid should always be at hand and a trip to the hospital becomes imperative.

Let’s get to understanding how long does it take for a heart attack to happen,

How Long Does It Take For a Heart Attack To Happen?

A heart attack usually presents itself with symptomatic pains prior to the onset of a full-blown myocardial infarction; as soon as muscle death starts to happen, mild pain will be experienced by the individual. However, the intensity of this pain is low enough to not raise any flags and it usually goes untreated, since some rest can help alleviate the pain. However, it is at this point that a physician be consulted, especially if you have a medical history of heart diseases or have a sedentary lifestyle with active consumption of fats and lipids.

The exact time frame from the onset of the initial symptoms to the occurrence of the actual attack cannot be pinned down as an objective time. This is because this period is determined by a myriad of factors; how much has the cardiac muscle been damaged, how long has it been damaged and how much has the rest of the apparatus been stressed due to over performance of the functioning muscle. All of this and other factors play out in determining how long will it take for a heart attack to happen.

How long does it take to have a heart attack? The answer ranges from anywhere from a couple of minutes to years. Again, a lot of factors determine how long will the heart issue be in dormancy before it blows up in the form of a heart attack. There are instances of people suffering a quick stroke of an attack and passing out, leading to them not getting revived and pronounced dead due to a ‘sudden heart attack’.

On the other end of the spectrum are individuals who have survived two, even three heart attacks, each more dire and severe than the last. Life is uncertain and you never know what it holds for you and how much life you have left at any given moment. 

How Fast Does a Heart Attack Happen?

Now that we know it can take some time for a heart attack to happen and even when it does happen, it still has a 15–20-minute window before the damage gets too critical. How fast does a heart attack happens is again dependent on a lot of factors, but a generally accepted window where the onset of symptoms occurs and the heart stops pumping is within minutes, generally two minutes. That is when the pain gets to the point where the heart actually stops pumping and a person passes out, either due to the pain or the absence of blood circulating in the body. 

To summaries, a heart attack can be very fast in its onset; typically starting and shutting the heart down in about two or five minutes. This is when the situation is at its most critical; the patient needs to be defibrillated and/or given a nitroglycerine pill within the next 15-20 minutes, considering that the organs start shutting down one by one as the heart stops beating and while they can be resuscitated, after 20 minutes, not much is left to be revived and the person, for all intents and purposes, will be dead.

ALSO READ: Can Allergies Cause High Blood Pressure: Explained

This is why people are always advised to take chest pains seriously and cautiously; especially if there is a family history present or lifestyle suggests heart disease, any pain in the area might be a sign of an impending heart attack, or a sign that the heart is getting overworked due to the additional strain on the functioning cardiac muscle.

How to Prevent a Heart Attack?

Heart attacks and any heart diseases for that matter are entirely preventable, with the exception for hereditary diseases and sudden, unexplainable heart attacks. A right mix of good diet, proper exercise and excursion can help mitigate the negative effects of fats and cholesterol on the circulatory system and might even increase your lifespan, considering that exercise gets the heart in a much better shape and biologically active enough to pump for a longer time. 

Of course, death is an inevitability but the quality of life will be affected if an individual chooses to stay unhealthy and run the risk of incurring heart disease. The standard advice given to patients and anybody to prevent heart diseases and heart attacks is to consume a moderate amount of fats and lipids and control their cholesterol level by controlling their consumption and their exercise, which should be done to make sure that all excessive fat is burned out and the bad cholesterol levels stay down. 

Understand that heart diseases are very much the killing diseases because of the way we eat, live and exercise. Too much fats and very little exercise will cause fat and cholesterol to be deposited in the bloodstream and eventually the blood vessels, causing them to block off supply to vital areas of the heart itself. This, in turn, causes the cardiac muscles to starve off and die, causing a large part of the heart to stop contracting and expanding, resulting in muscular atrophy and death, culminating into a heart attack.