It’s possible to experience a heart attack and not even know it. We’ve all seen those movies, you know the ones, where an actor has a heart attack on screen. They cling to their chest and announce, with absolute certainty, they are having a heart attack. As it turns out, almost half of silent heart attacks go completely unnoticed and are often mistaken for mild discomfort, the flu, or even just indigestion.
A silent heart attack may not be as obvious as a full-blown classic sudden-chest-pain heart attack, but it’s still incredibly dangerous and life-threatening. So, what is a silent heart attack? It means your heart is not receiving enough oxygen. According to the Cleveland Clinic “a heart attack is ‘silent’ when it has no symptoms, mild symptoms, or symptoms people don’t connect to a heart attack”. Typically, silent heart attacks are most common in women and can happen when you’re asleep or awake.
You know when you are having a heart attack. There are classic signs that one knows to look out for; pressure, aching, or tightness of the chest, sweating, and pain radiating from the arms or shoulders. You already know to call 911 immediately, but how do you know you’re having a silent heart attack? According to AARP these are the symptoms:
- Shortness of Breath
- Weakness or fatigue
- A general feeling of unease or discomfort
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Mild pain in the throat or chest
- Pain in the back or arms, like a sprained or pulled muscle
It is always best to be cautious and if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 straight away. Talk to your doctor if you’ve experienced these symptoms in the past. It’s possible to tell if there is previous damage to your heart through the use of CT scans, EKG’s, blood tests, or MRI’s. It may also be helpful to consult your doctor about preventative treatment strategies that may include a diet with less cholesterol, exercising more regularly, omitting tobacco use, and working on reducing stress levels.
You may find yourself at an increased risk for a silent heart attack if your family has a history of heart disease, you have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, or you are overweight. Other factors may include having high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or high blood pressure. Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 are also at an increased risk for heart disease.
It’s possible not to know you’ve had a silent heart attack for weeks or even months after the damage to your heart has already occurred. Get regular check-ups with your physician and never hesitate to call 911 if you are feeling concerned about the state of your health.