A heart attack of any kind is seriously damaging to your body. A heart attack occurs when blood vessels in the arteries fail to adequately pump blood to the heart, or when plaque (fatty deposits, cholesterol, and other substances) builds up in the arteries, limiting blood flow to the heart.
This attack is not always obvious, as it may also occur without the intensity of a known heart attack. This is known as a silent heart attack or silent myocardial infarction (SMI), which can cause substantial damage since it often goes unnoticed. Therefore, it is important to be well informed about the symptoms of a silent heart attack.
Symptoms of a silent heart attack
Heart attacks are not always sudden and intense. The following symptoms indicate a silent heart attack:
Chest pain and discomfort
In addition to experiencing mild pain and discomfort in the center of your chest, you may feel a sense of fullness or pressure in your chest. This may occur sporadically or may even last for a few minutes. However, similar symptoms might also be associated with heartburn, which is considered less dangerous. In any case, a check-up from a doctor will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your situation.
Dizziness and difficulty in breathing
When you feel dizzy without doing much physical exercise, it means your heart is having difficulty pumping blood to the rest of your body. If you are also experiencing shortness of breath, you may be having a silent heart attack. These symptoms can occur without chest pain, before chest pain, or even during chest pain. The difficulty performing your daily mundane tasks may indicate that a silent heart attack is taking place.
Discomfort in your body
A heart attack affects not only your heart but your entire body as well. While having a silent heart attack, you may experience pain in other parts of your body, such as your jaw, neck, arms, back, and stomach. It can vary from person to person but may consist of pain, discomfort, or pressure.
If you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, or cold sweats, it could be the flu or a silent heart attack. A consultation with a doctor may provide clarity if you are experiencing these symptoms, alongside other symptoms on this list.
Keep yourself safe from silent heart attacks
Now that you are aware of the symptoms of a silent heart attack, there are steps you can take to improve your heart health and reduce the risk of such an attack.
- Quit smoking: Smoking narrows blood vessels that may prevent sufficient blood flow to your heart, causing a heart attack.
- Lower your cholesterol: High cholesterol leads to excess fat accumulation on the walls of your blood vessels, forming plaque that can obstruct the blood flow to your heart. This leads to a heart attack. You can lower your cholesterol by changing your diet to include fish, fruits and vegetables, soluble fibers, etc.
- Exercise: Regular exercise helps lower your cholesterol (a contributor to plaque), maintain a healthy weight, and reduce your blood pressure.
- Control your blood pressure: High blood pressure damages arteries by making them less elastic. This decreases the flow of oxygen and blood to your heart, leading to a heart attack. You can keep your blood pressure controlled by consuming less salt in your food, drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Heart attacks don’t always come with glaring warning signs. Sometimes, they are subtle but equally damaging. Keeping yourself informed about the symptoms of a silent heart attack, and taking preventive steps, can help you stay better protected.