How Long After can a Heart Attack be Detected (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2-3 hours after symptoms

A heart attack may be a serious medical condition during which the availability of blood to the guts is suddenly blocked. The lack of blood damages heart muscles. If not treated, the muscles tend to die. The medical term for an attack is myocardial infarction (MI).

People with artery disease (CAD) tend to have more chance of heart attack. Lack of exercise, Smoking, poor diet, excessive alcohol intake, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are the main reasons for CAD which may lead to a heart attack in the future.

Heart attacks have become one of the most leading causes of death. A heart attack occurs mainly in people over 45years of age.

How Long After can a Heart Attack be Detected

How Long After can a Heart Attack be Detected?

Way to DetectDetection Time
Troponin Usage2-3 hours

The longer it takes to treat after a heart attack the longer the muscles get damaged. Symptoms of heart attack are different from person to person and also different from the first attack.


The most commonly found symptom is chest pain mainly on the left side followed by discomfort in the arm, back, neck and jaw.

Other common symptoms are difficulty in breathing, nausea, feeling faint, sweat, and weakness. Women tend to have body pain instead of chest pain. People over 75years of age are likely to have MI without any previous symptoms.

There are ways to detect a heart attack after the symptoms are shown.

Tests to detect heart attack:

Electrocardiogram (ECGs): An ECG helps to find how much the muscles are damaged and where bypassing electric signals through the heart. The signals are converted as waves on a printed paper. It shows whether a heart attack occurred or is in progress.

Cardiac biomarkers: There are different types of biomarkers to detect heart attack but the most commonly used one is troponins. They are used to find the injury in heart muscles. They are highly sensitive and specific. Troponin increases within 2-3 hours of injury which makes it easier to detect.

Blood test: There are certain enzymes present in the cells of the heart. When the heart muscles are damaged these enzymes leaks into the blood. By measuring these enzymes in the blood, a heart attack can be detected.

Imaging: Imaging helps in detecting MI. The most commonly used imaging techniques are chest X-ray, Echocardiography, Coronary Catheterization (angiogram).

Heart attacks can be detected within 2-3 hours after the symptoms are shown but some heart attacks occur without any symptoms commonly known as silent myocardial infarction. This condition mainly occurs in people having diabetes.

Why Does it Take Long for Heart Attack to be Detected?

Heart attack isn’t always recognizable. It is a time-critical treatment. Not all the symptoms need to indicate a heart attack. There are conditions where severe chest pain may be due to some other reasons and there is silent myocardial infarction where heart attack occurs without any symptoms. Some attacks are so small they go unnoticed.

A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage in coronary arteries which may partially or fully block the flow of blood to the heart which damages the muscles.

Based on the blockage of blood vessel there are two types of attack:

STEMI heart attack means complete blockage of coronary arteries.

NSTEMI heart attack means partial blockage of coronary arteries.

The diagnosis steps of STEMI and NSTEMI differ.

There are other factors like age, overall health, and medical history, the family history which is to be noted before making a diagnosis and treatment plan.

In the entertainment field, the most common symptom of heart attack is shown as collapsing or unconscious which is not a common symptom leading to misinterpretation of the situation by which people do not diagnose at the correct time. So, this interpretation should not be the only factor taken into consideration.

Apart from medical reasons, other factors lead to slow detection of a heart attack. Not having enough knowledge about the situation leads to ignoring the symptoms at first. Lack of proper health care facilities and financial concern plays an important role. As we all know, ignorance is bliss. Hence, this should be treated thoroughly.


The best time to treat an attack is within 2-3hours after the symptoms are shown. More the time has taken more the muscles get damaged leading to a lesser chance of survival. After a heart attack, it is always necessary to take care of yourself and lower the risk of having another one as there is a high chance of having another one that may be completely different from the first one.

There are smaller steps that can be taken to lower the risk of a heart attack like following proper medication prescribed by the doctor. Having a healthy lifestyle which includes doing proper exercise, controlling diabetes and cholesterols, consuming alcohol to recommended limit, and quitting smoking can reduce the risk of having an attack.


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