AARP: 8 Warning Signs of a 'Silent' Heart Attack That Are Easy to Overlook
AARP.org recently interviewed Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, executive director of the Smidt Heart Institute and the Mark Siegel Family Foundation Distinguished Professor at Cedars-Sinai, about silent heart attacks and their subtle symptoms, which often are more dangerous than they appear.
Just like a heart attack that causes sharp chest pain, a silent heart attack occurs when the arteries that carry blood to the heart become blocked. This deprives the heart muscle of nutrient-rich oxygen and can cause severe damage.
"It's not necessarily that there were no symptoms; it may just be that the patient didn't recognize them as heart symptoms and wasn't concerned," Marbán told AARP.org.
Experts estimate that silent heart attacks account for anywhere between 20% and 50% of all heart attacks. The subtle symptoms may include:
- 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's important to follow up with a doctor after experiencing these symptoms to prevent future cardiac events. Getting the right treatment also could decrease the risk of experiencing a stroke and/or sudden death.
"Once the diagnosis is made, either of a recognized heart attack or a silent heart attack, everything is put into a higher risk category in terms of the complications that can ensue," Marbán told AARP.org. "So it's not something that we should just consider a curiosity and do nothing about. … Detecting a heart attack and acknowledging it is the first step towards putting the patient back on the kind of effective therapy that we know is helpful."