What is a silent heart attack? Causes, Diagnosis & Preventive Measures
Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
What are silent heart attacks?
A silent heart attack, also known as silent myocardial infarction (SMI), occurs with either no symptoms, minimal symptoms, or symptoms that people neglect because they believe they have nothing to do with a heart attack.
The onset of a silent heart attack is often not recognized because it does not show symptoms like a classic heart attack, such as dizziness.
Although women are more prone to heart failure (about 20% more than men), 45% of silent heart attacks affect men more than women. Some research studies also show that nearly 50 to 80% of all heart attacks are silent and can occur while sleeping or waking.
A heart attack occurs when there is an impairment in the supply of oxygen to the heart, which interferes with normal heart function. This situation usually occurs because of a blood clot in one of the coronary arteries that is restricting normal blood flow, also known as coronary artery disease (CHD).
A silent heart attack can also occur if:
- Experience an emotionally or physically stressful scenario
- Sudden extreme physical activity
- Excessive physical activity outside in the cold
This article will walk you through that silent heart attack reasons, silent heart attack signs, his diagnosis and how to prevent breastfeeding heart attacks.
Reasons for silent heart attacks
The heart is one of the most important organs in the body, pumping around 1.5 liters of blood every minute to keep you moving. There are certain lifestyle habits and illnesses that can lead to both a silent heart attack and a traditional heart attack due to a lack of or insufficient oxygen supply to the heart. Coronary artery disease (CHD) is one of the most common causes of heart attack, which occurs when plaque builds up in one of the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
Some other reasons that can lead to a silent heart attack include:
- Overweight (obesity)
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Age factor (especially men over 45 years of age)
- Women over 55 (or after menopause)
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- A family history of heart attacks
- Life in stress
- Tobacco use
- A diet high in cholesterol, salt, and unhealthy fats
- Excessive alcohol consumption
What are the symptoms of a silent heart attack?
There’s a reason a silent heart attack is called “silent.” In general, there are no symptoms of a silent heart attack, or they are so mild that they often go unnoticed. So if someone is having a silent heart attack, it may not be possible for them to notice it. However, your body is always able to send out warning signals when there is a problem, no matter how small it is.
While the symptoms of a silent and a regular heart attack can be similar, knowing them in relation to an actual heart attack can be lifesaving. Some of the symptoms of a heart attack are:
- A tense muscle in your chest or upper back
- Pain in your jaw, arms, or upper back
- Extreme and inexplicable fatigue
- Chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes
- shortness of breath
- Upper body discomfort
- Cold sweat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Unusual sound from the lungs
People with ischemic heart disease (a problem caused by narrowing arteries in the heart) may experience chest pain when moving that stops after a few minutes of rest. If the pain persists even after rest, it indicates the occurrence of a silent or conventional heart attack.
Diagnosing a silent heart attack
Since silent heart attacks often go undetected and are cause for concern when the situation worsens, here are some diagnostic approaches that can help analyze the exact cause of the symptoms.
- Physical examination: The doctor will use a stethoscope to check if the heartbeat is normal or irregular.
- Blood test: Used to diagnose heart attack markers such as cardiac troponin, creatinine kinase (CK), CK-MB, and myoglobin
- Electrocardiogram (EKG / EKG): The easiest and fastest way to assess the heart is by putting small plastic patches (electrodes) on the skin of your chest, arms, and legs. The electrodes are connected via lead wires to an EKG machine that displays the heartbeats.
- Coronary Angiography: An X-ray to detect blockages in the coronary arteries
- CT scan: A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a CT scan (computed tomography) machine to take pictures of the internal structure of the body.
- MRI examination: An imaging procedure that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce images of the heart.
- Exercise exercise test: A test to see how the heart works during exercise
- Echocardiogram: An ultrasound of the heart that helps determine how the heart beats
- Nuclear stress test: This test is done along with an exercise test and involves injecting a radioactive tracer into the heart to take two exposures. The first picture is taken when the body is at rest and the second picture is taken after exercise.
How to prevent a silent heart attack
It is important to see a doctor when symptoms appear and follow recommendations to improve heart health and reduce the chance of a heart attack.
Other preventive measures are:
Some pre-existing conditions can also increase the risk of heart attacks. Hence, it is important to take preventive measures to protect the heart. These conditions include:
Silent heart attacks are more dangerous than normal heart attacks because they go almost unnoticed. Unfortunately, if a person has had a heart attack, the chances of having another heart attack increase. To protect the health of your heart and general well-being, undergoing an early diagnosis to identify the exact cause of the symptoms and take the preventive measures listed above to help you live healthier, longer.
Book the preventive heart check today!
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