Silent Heart Attacks: January 21, 2011

Hear the phrase: ‘heart attack” and what do you think? “Most people think that heart attacks occur with a sharp severe pain in the chest,” says Lee Memorial Health System cardiologist, Dr. Richard Chazal. That’s not always the case. “The thing that people do not always know about heart attacks is that they can be silent.”

It’s estimated that each year, 200,000 Americans have actually had a heart attack and don’t even know it. “In fact, most heart attacks do not occur with a sharp pain, but more of a dull or pressure sensation that feels like indigestion.” Silent heart attacks, as they are called, can be just as damaging to the heart as a noticeable heart attack.

Silent heart attacks can also raise the risk of another attack down the road. “It’s important that people at risk of cardiac disease, family history, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, inactivity, are carefully evaluated by their physician for risk factors so that they don’t put themselves at risk of a heart attack even in the absence of typical symptoms,” warns Dr. Chazal.

Knowing the silent signals are important: mild indigestion, dizziness, weakness, sweating, and sudden fatigue may all be symptoms of a silent heart attack. Never hesistate to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.