- Heart attacks are always dangerous for those affected and can lead to death or further illness.
- While a normal heart attack can be identified by certain clear symptoms, it looks a little more difficult with a silent heart attack.
- The symptoms here can appear very easily or in some cases not at all. Still, a silent heart attack is just as dangerous as a normal one.
Heart attacks often have classic symptoms: chest pain, shortness of breath and pressure on the chest. Women often experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, back pain, jaw pain or sore throat. However, this is not always the case. With silent heart attacks, more commonly referred to as silent myocardial infarction, the symptoms are so mild that people often go unnoticed that they have occurred.
But that doesn’t mean you should ignore a silent heart attack – medical experts say it’s as dangerous as a normal one. Here you can find out how a silent heart attack manifests itself and what to do about it.
What is a silent heart attack?
In a study published in 2015 in the journal “Circulation” in which more than 10,000 patients took part, researchers compared silent heart attacks and heart attacks. They found that silent heart attacks made up almost half of all heart attacks.
Nicole Weinberg, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., Says there can be situations when people experience no symptoms at all during a silent heart attack. Often, however, there are mild signs that are difficult to spot but suggest a silent heart attack.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), these include fatigue, heartburn, discomfort in the chest, back or jaw, and shortness of breath. A normal heart attack can have similar symptoms, but more often it is accompanied by a distinct feeling of pressure or pain in the chest, arms and neck.
In addition, the symptoms of a silent heart attack can easily be mistaken for indigestion or even a toothache. And while the symptoms usually don’t feel particularly severe, a silent heart attack is just as dangerous as any other heart attack, Weinberg says. Because every type of heart attack occurs when there is not enough blood flowing to the heart. The probability of another heart attack is then increased. Likewise, the risk of other heart diseases.
Men are more likely to have silent heart attacks
On the one hand, the study found that silent heart attacks were more common in men than women. On the other hand, it was also found that women die more often as a result of silent heart attacks. This may be due to women – and their doctors – not taking 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 study published in 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 14 percent of the 337 participants with diabetes had a silent heart attack.
For a conventional heart attack, doctors can recommend several treatment options. This is why silent heart attacks are so worrying: If you do not know that you have had a heart attack, in most cases these treatments will not be implemented or offered. Additionally, because a silent heart attack damages the heart muscles, you may not realize you 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 is always better to be a little more careful than to take the risk of not recognizing a heart attack.
The risk factors for a conventional and silent heart attack are the same: family history, old age, smoking or inadequate exercise, obesity and diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
This article was translated from English by Klemens Handke. You can find the original here.