Blood pressure plays an integral role during a heart attack. Many heart attacks are caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure that can damage arteries and heart tissue over time. Blood pressure will also be high during a heart attack as the heart struggles to supply the brain and body with blood. The American Heart Association advises that high blood pressure usually does not cause physical symptoms unless it progresses. Once advanced, high blood pressure can turn into a hypertensive crisis which is classified as blood pressure over 180/110. Both heart attack and hypertensive crisis are medical emergencies and can have similar symptoms.
Chest pain or discomfort can accompany a hypertensive crisis or heart attack. A person may experience pain across the front of the chest, upper back, neck or one or both arms. Pain may feel sharp and stabbing or as a dull, nagging ache. Some people experience chest pressure in conjunction with pain. Chest pressure can feel like a heavy weight sitting on the chest or a tight, squeezing band encircling the chest. A sudden onset of chest pain or discomfort, or that which gets worse over time, should be evaluated as possibly heart-related.
Both a hypertensive emergency and a heart attack can cause trouble breathing. High blood pressure that affects the pulmonary artery, called pulmonary hypertension, can cause shortness of breath. A person having a heart attack or hypertensive emergency may feel as if he is unable to get enough air. He may have shallow, labored breathing and struggle to take in enough air. Trouble breathing may happen suddenly during a heart attack, or may begin mildly and quickly progress.
The National Institutes of Health advises that additional symptoms can accompany a heart attack. Sweating, indigestion and nausea may be present. The victim may appear very anxious or restless and be difficult to comfort during a heart attack. Women may experience extreme fatigue or indigestion during a heart attack. In some cases, a person can have a "silent heart attack" in which no symptoms are experienced.
Hypertensive crisis can cause a sudden severe headache or nosebleed in addition to the same heart attack symptoms. In most cases, a person will have one or more symptoms of heart attack or hypertensive crisis. However, any single symptom that appears without any known cause should be evaluated for a heart-related condition.