How many beats per minute is a heart attack? Frequently Asked Questions

While it’s true that the resting heart rate and a standard pulse check are both good indicators of general heart health, things become a little more complicated when it comes to heart attacks. There have been numerous examples of research that have tried to make a connection between heart rate and heart attacks.

There has also been plenty of dispute too. However, it stands to reason that the faster your heart rate when you are at rest, the more vulnerable you could be to some kind of heart emergency.

What is a heart attack?

Put simply, a heart attack is an instance of permanent damage to the heart. In some cases, heart attacks can be mild. However, having a heart attack incident can be fatal, and a serious heart attack can leave you with huge health problems if you survive it.

The heart requires a constant supply of blood that has oxygen in it. If it doesn't receive this supply effectively, that’s when problems occur. The mechanism involves the coronary arteries, which pump this blood to the heart. If you have coronary artery disease, the arteries will become strained and narrow. This means blood cannot travel as fast and effectively as it should.

Plenty of foods and other materials cause problems for your arteries. For example, fats will create plaque inside the arteries. Too much of this, and your heart will receive less blood. The plaques can cause blood clotting, which essentially prevents blood from flowing well, or even at all. When this happens, heart muscle cells can die, leaving permanent damage to the heart itself. This is what is referred to as a heart attack.

It can be even more complicated. Sometimes the area of the heart that is supplied with blood by the arteries can be large, and if it has restricted blood delivery more damage can be caused.

If you survive a heart attack the heart, like much of the tissue in the body, can begin to heal itself. A scar will be left, but unfortunately the scar will not contract. This means blood flow will be restricted. Hence so many heart attack survivors having to be extra careful to look after their damaged heart.

The connection between resting heart rate and heart attacks

For years now, physicians have been concerned about the lack of knowledge around heart rates and heart attacks. It is generally understood that someone who is sitting and resting will have a lower heart rate than someone who is moving about a room, for example. The heart rate is crucial here, because the resting heart rate is a ‘benchmark’ to assess heart health.

So what is that heart attack rate?

An adult should expect to have a resting heart rate between 60-100 beats per minute. Athletes can generally expect a resting rate of under 60. If your heart rate is higher than this and you're resting, there could be problems. It’s seen as being a potential heart attack if you have a resting heart rate of over 76 beats per minute.