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Dr. Anoop Agrawal, Thursday, October 5, 2023

Silent heart attack, how to identify?

Silent heart attack, by definition, does not produce any symptom, hence the term ‘silent’. Silent heart attacks are more common in those with Diabetes, women, extremes of age (too young or too old) etc. It is noteworthy though, that most of the ‘silent’ heart attacks have symptoms that are not typical of a heart attack, and hence go unnoticed. Whether a heart attack is silent or not, it always damages the heart muscles which in a few cases leads to ‘heart failure’. Often, a person presents with symptoms of heart failure (breathing difficulty, reduced exercise capacity, lew swelling etc.) and on evaluation is found to have weak heart muscle, likely due to a ‘silent’ heart attack in the past. A silent heart attack may also be diagnosed during a routine heart checkup. 

Atypical symptoms of a heart attack like stomach upset, discomfort of the jaws or upper arms, dizziness, or sweating may confuse people to think that they are suffering from acidity, toothache, cervical spondylosis, dehydration, or weather change respectively. Indeed, a heart attack is the cause of such symptoms in only a minority of cases. The only way to find out whether the symptoms are due to a heart attack or something else is a detailed in-person interview with a cardiologist and running a few diagnostics as required.

If you are in the age group where heart attack is more prevalent (males age >50 or females age >60), or if you have risk factors for early heart disease, you should pay particular attention to non-classic symptoms of heart attack as mentioned above. Symptoms that are new onset, or have a change in pattern deserve an urgent medical evaluation before one can be sure that it is not due to a heart attack.



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