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What is a silent heart attack?

Written by Diane Archer

Silent heart attacks occur more often than you might imagine, representing more than 45 percent of all heart attacks, according to the American Heart Association. They generally have no symptoms. The NIH reports that older adults are more likely to experience them.  What is a silent heart attack?

A silent heart attack can be as serious as a heart attack. There is a blockage in the arteries keeping oxygen rich blood from flowing to the heart. As a result, the heart cells and muscle die, scars form, and the likelihood of heart failure increases.  A silent heart attack can lead to additional heart attacks that can be fatal. A recent JAMA study reveals the presence of scars in the hearts of 70 percent of people who die of sudden heart attackspeople who were not known to have had heart disease.

People who have silent heart attacks may mistake them for heartburn or indigestion, or they may have muscle pain or experience nausea.  EKG’s and scans that look at heart muscle and its blood flow can reveal whether you’ve had a silent heart attack.

People with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as people who smoke and who are overweight are at greatest risk.

Heart disease is the number one killer in women as well as men but often goes undetected. Talk to your doctor about whether you need a screening or an imaging test. You might also check out the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations on screeningsMedicare covers an annual cardiovascular screening

Here’s a short video on silent heart attacks from the American Heart Association,

Here’s more from Just Care:



1 Comment

  • My doctor recently insisted that I go to a cardiologist for tests because I was having throat problems. The cardio ran three tests and scheduled me to come in later for the results. When I arrived he insisted on a fourth test and that I wait (45 minutes) for the results. There was no indication of a heart problem on any of his tests so he wanted to hospitalize me and do an angioplasty. I refused. The results of my four tests were never discussed but he indicated that they didn’t find anything. I think my throat problem is either GERD or allergies or possibly a combination of the two. I resent the heart testing I received even though I didn’t have any heart symptoms or a history of heart problems.

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