Can A Heart Attack Cause A Seizure?

In the UK alone, approximately 100,000 people are admitted to hospital each year for a heart attack. 

Can A Heart Attack Cause A Seizure

These severe, life-threatening events require immediate medical attention, and they can present with a wide variety of symptoms. 

Although the links between heart attacks and seizures are still being investigated, professionals suspect that in some cases, heart attacks are capable of inducing seizure-like episodes.

And those with a chronic condition such as epilepsy, may be at an increased risk of developing long-term heart conditions. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the links between heart attacks and seizures. 

What Is A Heart Attack? 

A heart attack (also called a myocardial infarction or MI), happens when there’s a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of the heart’s muscle.

When your heart doesn’t have enough blood and oxygen to supply it, it can become seriously damaged. 

Heart attacks occur when an artery in the body becomes blocked, (see also: Can Exercise Prevent Blocked Arteries?)and most are caused by Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). 

Heart attacks are serious medical emergencies requiring immediate treatment. Without immediate intervention, heart attacks can be life-threatening. 

Heart Attack Symptoms 

Detecting a heart attack early is crucial for survival. Here are the most common symptoms of a heart attack you need to be aware of: 

  • Chest pain (usually a feeling of heaviness or tightness that moves across your chest)
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy 
  • Sweating 
  • A shortness of breath 
  • Feeling sick or being sick 
  • Extreme feelings of anxiety, similar to those felt during a panic attack 
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Pain that spreads to other areas of the body, including your chest and your arms, jaw, stomach, neck, and back, Pain usually occurs in the left arm, but it can affect both

In most cases, chest pain is often severe. However, some people may only experience mild chest pain that’s similar to indigestion. 

Do Heart Attacks Present Differently in Men and Women? 

The symptoms of a heart attack can be different for everyone, and men and women often experience different symptoms.

Women are just as likely to have a heart attack as men, but they may be more likely to dismiss their symptoms if they have a different presentation to the key symptoms seen in male sufferers.

This can lead to some women requiring a more severe or advanced presentation until they seek treatment, which can be life-threatening. 

Women are more likely to experience: 

  • Sudden feelings of anxiety 
  • Wheezing 
  • Chest pain that may feel “uncomfortable” rather than sudden and sharp 

Women are also more likely to experience pain in their back, neck, or jaw than men.

Sometimes, women may also experience abdominal pain or pressure when they’re having a heart attack. 

Although their symptoms may present differently, they are still just as likely to experience the same key symptoms as men, which can include: 

  • Chest pain 
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Fatigue 
  • Pain in the left arm or both arms 

What Causes Heart Attacks? 

Heart attacks happen when the blood supply to the heart is suddenly interrupted. Heart attacks can be caused by: 

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) 
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Ageing 
  • Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a poor diet, inactivity, smoking, or excessive alcohol consumption 
  • Genetics 

If you have a close relative who has experienced heart disease, you may be more likely to develop it yourself.

In fact, if you have a close family member such as a parent who has suffered from heart disease, your risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event may be doubled.

Inherited conditions can affect people of any age, but following a healthy lifestyle may reduce your chances of experiencing a cardiovascular event. 

Can A Heart Attack Cause A Seizure? 

Can A Heart Attack Cause A Seizure 

Seizures and heart attacks can both be life-threatening situations.

Although the link between heart attacks and seizures is unclear, it’s thought that some cardiac arrhythmias may lead to a type of seizure-like episode called a convulsive syncope.

However, arrhythmias that cause convulsive syncope are thought to be rare. Doctors and researchers are still learning more about the link.

If you have a heart arrhythmia and you’re concerned about the risk of seizures, talk to your doctor for more information. 

What Is A Convulsive Syncope? 

A convulsive syncope is defined as a brief loss of consciousness associated with jerking movements, tense or rigid muscles, and muscle twitching.

A convulsive syncope is incredibly similar to a seizure, however, it’s not quite the same. 

Seizures happen when the brain experiences a sudden and abnormal surge of electrical activity in the brain.

Convulsive syncope, on the other hand, is a temporary loss of consciousness that’s often followed by a prompt recovery. 

Although a convulsive syncope can be caused by a heart arrhythmia, there are a few other common causes, including: 

  • A sudden drop in blood pressure 
  • Aortic dissection 
  • Bradycardia 
  • Supraventricular tachycardias 
  • Vasovagal reactions 

Sometimes, a convulsive syncope can occur alongside a heart attack. However, this is rare. 

The Link Between Heart Attacks and Seizures 

Doctors are still learning about the links between heart attacks and seizures. 

Although heart attacks don’t often cause seizures, there is evidence to suggest that some seizures may cause heart attacks. 

Seizures are known to affect heart rate and rhythm and induce other seizure-related cardiac events.

Patients with epilepsy also seem more likely to experience sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) as a leading cause of death. 

When you have a seizure, the change in electrical activity in the brain may have knock-on effects on your heart rate and pulse.

In some cases, the heart can even slow or stop. This means that your chances of experiencing a cardiac event during a seizure are heightened. 

Although these events can include heart attacks, it’s more likely you’ll experience an irregular heartbeat or another transient cardiac change that will end once you’ve stopped seizing. 

If you have chronic epilepsy, there’s a risk that the structural integrity of your heart may change over time, especially if you’re experiencing persistent seizures. 

If you suffer from epilepsy and you’re concerned for your heart health, talk to a medical professional for more advice. 

Final Thoughts 

Heart attacks (see also: Can You Have A Heart Attack With A Pacemaker?)don’t often cause seizures, but some patients may experience convulsive syncope, a seizure-like event.

If you want to learn more about the links between seizures and heart health, consult your doctor for more information. 

Clare McAfee
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