Silent Heart Attacks: More Common Than You Think


Did you know that a heart attack doesn’t always have obvious symptoms? Research shows that up to half of all heart attacks may not have typical symptoms, such as crushing pain in your chest, shortness of breath, and cold sweats. In fact, a heart attack can actually happen without a person knowing it. This is called a silent heart attack.

What are the odds?

Every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack. One in every five heart attacks is silent.

Either type of heart attack can damage the heart. Heart attacks slow or stop the flow of blood to the heart muscle, causing severe damage if not treated quickly. Because silent heart attacks may not be realized, people may temporarily recover but not get medical care to prevent future heart attacks from happening. Silent heart attacks triple a person’s risk of dying from heart disease. Studies have yet to be able to conclude for certain why it is that some heart attacks present fewer, mild, or no symptoms, but new findings suggest that pain tolerance might be a factor. People who are less sensitive to pain may be at increased risk for silent heart attacks. When digging deeper into this study, silent heart attacks were found more common among men, but deadlier among women.

What can you do?

The main takeaway is that people should know the ‘atypical’ symptoms of heart attacks.

Noticing heart attack symptoms early and getting prompt treatment can save your life. In addition to chest pain, other symptoms that can occur during silent heart attacks include chest pressure, chest heaviness, arm pain, neck pain, jaw pain, shortness of breath, sweating, fatigue, upset stomach, heartburn or belching, dizziness, and nausea. The possibility of experiencing different combinations of symptoms is partly why it is not always easy to spot a heart attack. Make sure to schedule regular appointments with your primary care physician or cardiologist to keep your heart healthy.

Whether you know the symptoms of a heart attack or notice differences in your health, seek medical attention to rule out a silent heart attack. St. Luke’s Health Emergency Departments are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are fully equipped to treat all medical emergencies.

Sources:
‘Silent’ Heart Attacks Are Common
Half of Heart Attacks Might Be ‘Silent’
High Pain Tolerance Tied to ‘Silent’ Heart Attack Risk
CDC: Heart Attack

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