All You Need To Know About Silent Heart Attacks
Sep 01, 2017

Nowadays, silent heart attacks have become extremely common, and they can happen without the victim realising it.

According to Dr. Leslie Tay, an interventional cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, silent attacks occur without visible symptoms, and there are some little signs you should watch out for.

What is a silent heart attack?

In a heart attack, one of the heart arteries become blocked to the extent where blood flow is diminished. As a result of which, the heart muscle becomes deprived of nutrients and oxygen, gets destructed and eventually dies.

The most common symptoms of heart attack are severe crushing chest pain or heaviness. The pain suffered in a heart attack is described as an elephant sitting on your chest, along with cold sweats and nausea.

On the other hand, in a silent heart attack, the patient does not experience these full-blown symptoms. In fact, they may feel nothing at all. All they experience are a few less subtle symptoms which are usually mistaken for a less critical condition.

Causes of a silent heart attack

A silent heart attack happens for the same reason as that of a normal heart attack. Over the years, the heart arteries tend to narrow from deposits of plaque and cholesterol. These deposits can anytime bleed, rupture and block off the artery. This leads to heart muscle damage.

Are silent heart attacks common?

As per research, almost half of all heart attacks are silent. Apparently, most people are not aware of their critical condition. Since they don’t seek treatment, they have a higher risk of dying.

Hence, one needs to be extremely cautious if they have any illness which causes heart attack, like diabetes. The nerve cells of diabetics are so damaged that do not experience pain the same way as someone with no diabetes. These people are more prone to having a silent heart attack; this is because of poor circulation and high sugar in their blood.

How to know if you can have a silent heart attack?

Some of the subtle signs of silent attack include discomfort in the chest back, arms or jaw. Apart from that, they may experience fainting spells
or dizziness. Also, running up a flight of stairs could wear them out. They might also have an upset stomach or heartburn sensation.

I have had some patients who have had a silent heart attack. One patient claimed that he had a severe gastric and heartburn sensation lasting over two days, accompanied by an overwhelming sense of fatigue. By the time the person made it to the hospital, his heart muscle was so damaged that there was an apparent heart failure. To recover the heart muscle, we had to open up the blocked artery.

You know your body best, and if at some point you feel that something isn’t right, then you should seek treatment as soon as possible.
What if I don't seek medical help immediately?

If you feel that something is not right in your body, you should get it checked out immediately. A heart attack is a severe condition which can potentially lead to death.

How can an interventional cardiologist help?

Apart from treating patients with heart diseases, cardiologists also manage risk factors like cholesterol and hypertension. In the case of a heart attack, an interventional cardiologist performs a procedure to open up the heart arteries. This is done to stop the heart attack and restore blood flow.

How can I prevent a silent heart attack?

Here are three of the most effective approaches:

1. Identify any existing artery blockages by going for a health screening get treated if necessary.

2. If there are any risk factors like obesity, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, then keep them under control with the help of your doctor. Follow the medication your doctor prescribes medication and quit smoking.

3. Eat healthily and exercise regularly. Exercising for just 20 minutes every day can significantly reduce your risk of death.

In conclusion, it’s crucial to go for health screening. This will help you not only identify your risk factors, but also keep them under control. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with healthy eating and exercise will minimise your risk of developing a heart attack.

The inspiration for this article has been taken from Health Plus Section, a source of credible health information by Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, Singapore.