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View Full Version : What does a heart attack look like?



efreysson
11-09-2011, 11:21 PM
I have a character whose death is written off as a heart attack. He is actually killed by a curse, but I need to know what an actual heart attack looks like so a witnessing character who knows the difference can tell something isn't as it seems.

The current version of the scene has the victim scream loudly, remain standing for a bit in a rigid position and then drop dead.

Oh, and it's a fantasy setting so autopsies are a non-issue.

George
11-09-2011, 11:44 PM
There are a few variables with this one. Is the character a man or a woman? Is he/she dying of fear of butter arteries? Yes, this makes a difference.

Men tend to look pallid and be lethargic before they clock out. They usually experience intense pain in their left arm and collapse. But the quickness also depends on how severe the heart attack is. Men sometimes get that 'indigestion' feeling, but are actually having coronary issues.

With woman, it's different. Women are known to have a heart attack for days. They usually feel sick and have excruciating migraines and flashes of light. This is actually more damaging because by the time it is discovered a woman is having a heart attack a lot of damage has already been done. They also can get the 'indigestion' feeling.

For both genders, if it is a matter of butter arteries, the attack can be slower, but with males, to my knowledge, it is usually quicker than woman (I don't know why). If we are talking 'scared to death', the attack is acute for both genders which would makes sense in the 'grabs arm and dies' scenario.

I'm not an expert or giving medical advice. This is all to my knowledge and experiences with other people.

efreysson
11-09-2011, 11:54 PM
There are a few variables with this one. Is the character a man or a woman? Is he/she dying of fear of butter arteries? Yes, this makes a difference.

It's a man. And since he doesn't actually suffer a heart attack I just need some sort of reaction/behavior that doesn't fit with an attack.

sheadakota
11-10-2011, 12:15 AM
It's a man. And since he doesn't actually suffer a heart attack I just need some sort of reaction/behavior that doesn't fit with an attack.
well, what you described- screaming, going rigid and then dropping dead- doesn't fit.

There is no one scenario for having a heart attack- but it seems liek what you are looking for is a quick death- yes? That might mimick something called pro-longed Q-T syndrom. With this a person could during exertion simply "drop dead" But there is no screaming, no rigidity- they might clutch their chest and then fall over- dead.

A "heart Attack" or Micardial Infarction, rarely kills immedialty- lots of pain, perhaps difficulty breathing, but the symptons can progress over hours and sometimes even days.
Never say never in medicine but it is unlikely a true heart attack is going to kill someone as you describe.

GeorgeK
11-10-2011, 04:55 AM
There are a few variables with this one. Is the character a man or a woman? Is he/she dying of fear of butter arteries? Yes, this makes a difference.

Men tend to look pallid and be lethargic before they clock out. They usually experience intense pain in their left arm and collapse. But the quickness also depends on how severe the heart attack is. Men sometimes get that 'indigestion' feeling, but are actually having coronary issues.

With woman, it's different. Women are known to have a heart attack for days. They usually feel sick and have excruciating migraines and flashes of light. This is actually more damaging because by the time it is discovered a woman is having a heart attack a lot of damage has already been done. They also can get the 'indigestion' feeling.

For both genders, if it is a matter of butter arteries, the attack can be slower, but with males, to my knowledge, it is usually quicker than woman (I don't know why). If we are talking 'scared to death', the attack is acute for both genders which would makes sense in the 'grabs arm and dies' scenario.

I'm not an expert or giving medical advice. This is all to my knowledge and experiences with other people.

That's not so much a male / female thing as it is an acute vs chronic thing.

Diabetics can even have silent heart attacks, where they just feel a little off until a week later and then the dead portion of the heart blows out or starts to scar. Like everything in medicine there is a line of continuum between the mild chronic stuff and the massive acute stuff.

Yelling out in pain is unusual and would be a give away because if your heart isn't pumping properly, you generally won't have the blood flow to have the strength to yell. Having the curse make himpull his left arm to his chest and keel over would fool most people. The doctors or wizards will raise an eyebrow about the yell.

frimble3
11-10-2011, 09:44 AM
Diabetics can even have silent heart attacks, where they just feel a little off until a week later and then the dead portion of the heart blows out or starts to scar.
Yup, that was me, I thought I had the flu. Turns out I had a bunch of stuff, including a heart attack, diabetes and anemia. I only believed I had a heart attack because the doctors claimed they had test results that proved it. Enzyme levels?
Anyway, no pain, no dropping to the floor.
But, I'm a woman, so that would have been weird if it had happened that way.

areteus
11-10-2011, 01:36 PM
First rule in first aid triage - if a patient is yelling they are in better shape than the person who is making no noise at all... this applies to injuries (unconscious person is usually in the most danger because it is a short step from unconcsious to coma to death), to drowning (someone who is actually drowning makes very little noise, if they can scream and shout they are not drowning just panicking bcause they have clear lungs to shout with) and to heart attacks (again, just like with drowning, you usually can't make noise if you can't breath and because the circulatory and pulmonary systems are so intertwined a heart attack usually also affects the lungs). A gasp is what you usually manage.

There was a series of TV programmes called (I think) Bodyworks which followed the story of different diseases inside a sufferer using what was at the time 'state of the art' cgi (hey, it was abou 10 years ago :) ). There was one covering the progress of a heart attack from the initial stages right to the recovery after the operation. You may find it useful to watch and get some ideas from.

GeorgeK
11-10-2011, 04:44 PM
Enzyme levels? .

Depending upon the timing and proximity to the heart damage, yes, there's a variety of blood enzymes that could verify what was happening. Also an EKG, especially if they had an old one to compare with would likely be diagnostic. There are much more expensive and invasive tests as well, but a few blood tests and an EKG are going to give you most of the puzzle.

efreysson
11-11-2011, 01:03 AM
Yelling out in pain is unusual and would be a give away because if your heart isn't pumping properly, you generally won't have the blood flow to have the strength to yell. Having the curse make himpull his left arm to his chest and keel over would fool most people. The doctors or wizards will raise an eyebrow about the yell.


First rule in first aid triage - if a patient is yelling they are in better shape than the person who is making no noise at all... this applies to injuries (unconscious person is usually in the most danger because it is a short step from unconcsious to coma to death), to drowning (someone who is actually drowning makes very little noise, if they can scream and shout they are not drowning just panicking bcause they have clear lungs to shout with) and to heart attacks (again, just like with drowning, you usually can't make noise if you can't breath and because the circulatory and pulmonary systems are so intertwined a heart attack usually also affects the lungs). A gasp is what you usually manage.


Well, it looks like I have what I need. Thanks. :)