Most people are familiar with the classic symptoms of a heart attack: chest pain, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Women often experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, back pain, jaw pain, or a sore throat. However, this is not always the case. In silent heart attacks, also known as silent myocardial infarction, the symptoms are so mild that people often don’t realize when they occur.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore these symptoms, even if they are mild; medical experts say it is just as dangerous as a normal one. Here you can find out how a silent heart attack manifests itself and what you have to do about it.
What is a silent heart attack?
In a study published in the journal Circulation in 2015, involving more than 10,000 patients, researchers compared silent heart attacks and heart attacks. They found that silent heart attacks accounted for nearly half of all heart attacks.
Nicole Weinberg, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says there may be times when people who are having a silent heart attack don’t feel any symptoms. However, in most cases, there are mild signs that, although difficult to detect, may indicate a silent heart attack.
These include fatigue, heartburn, chest, back, or jaw discomfort, and shortness of breath, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). A normal heart attack can have similar symptoms, but is more often associated with a significant feeling of pressure or pain in the chest, arms, and neck.
Also, the symptoms of a silent heart attack can easily be mistaken for indigestion or even a toothache. And while the symptoms aren’t usually particularly severe, a silent heart attack is just as dangerous as any other heart attack, Weinberg says. Because any type of heart attack happens when not enough blood gets to the heart. Then the chance of another heart attack increases. So is the risk of other heart diseases.
Men are more likely to have silent heart attacks
For one thing, the study found that silent heart attacks are more common in men than women. On the other hand, it was also found that women die more frequently as a result of a silent heart attack. This may be because women — and their doctors — don’t take symptoms seriously enough, according to the American Heart Association.
Researchers have also found that silent heart attacks are more common in older adults with diabetes. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 14 percent of 337 participants with diabetes had a silent heart attack.
For a traditional heart attack, doctors may recommend a variety of treatment options. This is why silent heart attacks are so concerning: If you don’t know you’ve had a heart attack, in most cases these treatments aren’t implemented or offered. Also, because a silent heart attack damages your heart muscles, you may not realize you’ve had a silent heart attack until after symptoms of heart disease appear.
If you think you have the symptoms of a heart attack, you should see a doctor right away. While this may seem like an overreaction in some cases, it’s always better to be a little more cautious than risk missing out on a heart attack.
The risk factors for a traditional heart attack and a silent heart attack are the same: family history, older age, smoking or insufficient exercise, obesity, and conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
This article was translated from English by Klemens Handke. You can find the original here.