Heart attacks, commonly associated with intense chest pain and gripping discomfort, are a well-known medical emergency. However, there exists a subtler, more elusive form known as a ‘silent heart attack.’
Talking to the team of OnlyMyHealth, Dr Chetan Bhambure, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road shared that this phenomenon often goes unnoticed, lacking the dramatic symptoms typically associated with cardiac events.
What Is A Silent Heart Attack?
“A silent heart attack, medically termed a silent myocardial infarction, occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart muscle is blocked, leading to damage, without the individual experiencing the classic symptoms like chest pain or discomfort,” said Dr Bhambure.
This lack of overt signs makes silent heart attacks challenging to detect, and they may go unnoticed until further complications arise. To help deal with this issue, Dr Bhambure listed some common features of silent heart attacks:
- Asymptomatic Nature: Unlike typical heart attacks, silent heart attacks often present with no apparent symptoms. This absence of warning signs can delay diagnosis and treatment, potentially increasing the risk of complications.
- Mild Symptoms: Some individuals may experience mild symptoms that are often attributed to other less severe conditions, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, or indigestion. These symptoms may not immediately raise concerns about a heart-related issue.
- Common Risk Factors: Silent heart attacks share many risk factors with traditional heart attacks, including age, family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and high cholesterol levels. Individuals with these risk factors should be particularly vigilant.
Managing Silent Heart Attacks
Before treating silent heart attacks, it is important to be able to recognise its signs. If treatment is delayed, it could lead to the following complications:
- Delayed Treatment: Due to the lack of noticeable symptoms, silent heart attacks may go untreated for an extended period, increasing the likelihood of further damage to the heart muscle and complications.
- Increased Mortality Risk: Studies suggest that silent heart attacks may be associated with a higher risk of mortality compared to recognized heart attacks. The delayed diagnosis contributes to a more challenging road to recovery.
- Recurrence: Individuals who have experienced a silent heart attack are at an increased risk of subsequent episodes. Regular medical check-ups and heart health monitoring become crucial for early detection and prevention.
Talking about the ways to treat silent heart attacks, Dr Bhambure mentioned, “Routine health check-ups, including blood pressure monitoring, cholesterol level assessments, and electrocardiograms (ECG), can aid in the early detection of silent heart attacks.”
“Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle by maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding tobacco can significantly reduce the risk of both traditional and silent heart attacks,” he added.
Silent heart attacks pose a silent yet serious threat to cardiovascular health. Understanding their characteristics, risks, and detection methods is crucial for early intervention and prevention. By staying vigilant, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, and prioritising regular check-ups, individuals can take proactive steps towards minimising the impact of silent heart attacks and preserving their heart health.