You can always spot someone on television acting out a heart attack. They display all the classic symptoms – lightheadedness, pain in the chest or arm, and shortness of breath. They may even collapse. Those signs and symptoms are all real, but they’re not the whole story. People experience heart attacks in a variety of different ways. Women often have an entire suite of symptoms that differ from men. But there’s one tricky type of heart attack that goes undiagnosed far too often.

The silent heart attack may sound like something we’ve made up, but we assure you it’s a very real and dangerous threat. It has few symptoms, if any at all, making it easy to miss altogether. However, having a silent heart attack puts you at greater risk for another, much more severe heart attack down the line. 

Warning Signs Of A Silent Heart Attack

We all know that chest pain is one of the hallmark symptoms of a heart attack. Generally, that pain is so severe that it merits an extreme response. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes heart attack symptoms feel very similar to heartburn or indigestion, a prime example of a silent heart attack. When the symptoms are dull enough to be confused for something far less severe, it’s easy to write the pain off like nothing at all. Additional pains associated with a heart attack (silent or otherwise) occur in the arms, back, neck, or stomach.

Shortness of breath is a symptom of all heart attacks. But when experienced with little or no chest pain, many patients may rule a heart attack out. This is very dangerous as you could unknowingly suffer a heart attack and worsen your condition with unnecessary home remedies. If this sounds like an impossible position to be in, you’re right. The silent heart attack can sneak up on you with a variety of symptoms. Later on, we’ll discuss some ways to tell whether or not you’re at high risk for a heart attack or other cardiac event.

Do you ever feel like you’ve finished a triathlon when you’ve only just walked to the mailbox or climbed the stairs at work? This is a clear sign that something is not functioning correctly in your cardiovascular system. In the case of cardiac illness, it’s a clear indication that blood is not pumping through your body efficiently, a natural cause of heart attack. As your heart muscle becomes weaker, it’s unable to do its job. Whether or not you have a silent heart attack, difficulty breathing, or dizziness should be addressed before they escalate into something more serious.

A final indication that you may be experiencing a silent heart attack or other cardiac complication is cold sweats or nausea that is not associated with any existing illness. By now, you know what “normal” feels like in your body, and when symptoms like nausea and cold sweats arise, they should alert you that something isn’t quite right. Sometimes they are caused by the flu, but other times they are a much more severe issue. Don’t write off any symptoms that you cannot identify. You never know when you’re ignoring a potentially dangerous cardiac event.

When You Should Seek Help

We believe you should have a stable and consistent relationship with your cardiologist. The best cardiac medicine is preventative. But, if you find yourself experiencing symptoms of a potential silent heart attack, it’s essential to act quickly. Call your doctor immediately, and if your symptoms become more serious, take yourself to the emergency room. The silent heart attack is still a heart attack and should be treated as such. It’s also often a foreshadowing of a more dangerous heart attack to come. Take this warning shot seriously and get quality medical care as soon as you’re able.

Risk Factors For Heart Attacks

While it’s difficult to tell whether you’re experiencing heartburn or a silent heart attack, it helps to know your risk potential. For example, suppose you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a family history of heart disease. In that case, it’s reasonable to suspect that you have an elevated risk of a heart attack (silent or not). Some of the most common risk factors that you should be aware of are age, Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a sedentary lifestyle. If you have any of these preexisting issues, we recommend working with your doctor to develop a plan to combat them. However, it’s important to say that plenty of people who are seemingly healthy from the outside have heart attacks. If you are thin and active, it’s still possible to have a dangerous or deadly heart attack. Use these preexisting symptoms as a sign that you might need care, but not the only sign.

We all like to think we know heart attacks when we see them, but unfortunately, they don’t always happen in real life the way they do on television. If you meet some criteria for being high risk for a future heart attack, we urge you to speak to a cardiologist to learn what steps you need to take to prevent further cardiac damage. If you don’t already have a cardiologist, call our office, and we’ll introduce you to a member of our team.