- Women: Don’t Ignore These 3 Subtle Heart Attack Symptoms
- 1.Unusual fatigue
- 2.Sweating and/or shortness of breath
- 3.Neck, jaw, back pain
- Whatto do if you notice symptoms
- When you see your doctor:
- Whento call 9-1-1
- Heart Attack Symptoms in Men and Women
- Heart attack in women over 50
- 10 Heart Attack Symptoms in Women – Signs of a Heart Attack for Women
- Insomnia and 7 other signs of a heart attack that start one month before deadly event
- 1. Fatigue
- 2. Abdominal pain
- 3. Insomnia
- 4. Shortness of breath
- 5. Hair loss
- 6. Irregular heartbeat
- 7. Excessive sweating
- 8. Chest pain
- Heart attack in women: 8 symptoms and risk factors
- 1. Chest pain
- 2. Extreme or unusual fatigue
- 3. Weakness
- 5. Sweating
- 6. Upper body pain
- 7. Sleep disturbances
- 8. Stomach problems
- The danger of “silent” heart attacks
- SMI: Unaware of possible danger
- How to get checked out
Women: Don’t Ignore These 3 Subtle Heart Attack Symptoms
We always associate chest pain with heart attacks, and for good reason, but it’s not the whole story ― especially for women. While chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack, women can have symptoms that aren’t related to chest pain at all, says cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD. They need to be on the lookout for other, subtler symptoms.
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“Also, we need to dig deeper into the symptom of chest pain for both men and women as it relates to heart attacks,” Dr. Cho says. “It is seldom as dramatic as you might think, and it can feel pressure or heart burn that comes on over time.”
Below, Dr. Cho discussesthree symptoms you should watch for ― and explains how to tell if they’rebenign or cause for concern.
many women, you’re probably busy most of the time. You may take care of a family, run a household, work outside the home and care for aging parents. You are probably also tired a lot of the time. Most ly this is normal.
But, Dr. Cho says, you shouldpay attention to fatigue if it is new or dramatic. Here’s what to watch outfor:
- You are suddenly worn out after your typical exercise routine.
- You aren’t exerting yourself, but have fatigue or a “heavy” chest.
- Simple activity making the bed, walking to the bathroom or shopping makes you excessively tired.
- Although you feel exceptionally tired, you also experience sleep disturbance.
2.Sweating and/or shortness of breath
As women age, a lack of exercise and gradual weight gain cause issues shortness of breath. Hot flashes are a common complaint for many women during menopause.
But these symptoms can signala heart problem when they happen in certain situations:
- Sudden sweating or shortness of breath without exertion.
- Breathlessness that continues to worsen over time after exertion.
- Shortness of breath that worsens when lying down and improves when propping up.
- “Stress” sweat (cold, clammy feeling) when there is no real cause for stress.
- Sweating or shortness of breath accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain or fatigue.
3.Neck, jaw, back pain
As intricate as our body’ssystems are, they are very adept at giving signals when there is somethingwrong. When there is a problem with the heart, it triggers nerves in that area,but you sometimes feel pain elsewhere.
Pain in the jaw, back or armsmay signal a heart condition, especially if the origin is hard to pinpoint (forexample there is no specific muscle or joint that aches). Also, if thediscomfort begins or worsens when you are exerting yourself, and then stopswhen you quit exercising, you should get it checked out.
Here are some other signs tolook out for:
- Women, in particular, can have pain in either arm ― not just the left one many men.
- Pain in the lower or upper back often starts in the chest and spreads to these areas.
- The pain is sometimes sudden, not due to physical exertion, and can wake you up at night.
- You may feel pain that is specific to the left, lower side of the jaw.
Whatto do if you notice symptoms
Women often say theynoticed some of these three warning signs weeks or a monthbefore a heart attack.
The sooner you report aproblem, the better the chances are of catching an issue before it becomes afull-blown heart attack. If you experience any of these symptoms, take note andvisit your doctor as quickly as possible.
When you see your doctor:
- Bring a list of your symptoms and when they are occurring.
- Let them know about any related family history.
- Talk about stress or anything going on in your life that might contribute to a problem.
Your doctor ly willlisten to your symptoms and check your pulse and blood pressure. They may orderblood work, which will show whether your heart is damaged.
They also may use an electrocardiogram (EKG) to tell whether the electrical activity of your heart is normal, or an echocardiogram to view images of the heart to see if damage has occurred.
All this is important inidentifying any problems and taking steps to intervene before a possible heartattack.
Whento call 9-1-1
Get help right away if youhave chest pain or discomfort along with any of these symptoms, especially ifthey last longer than five minutes:
- Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
- Sweating or “cold sweat”.
- Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel heartburn).
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Light-headedness, dizziness, extreme weakness or anxiety.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Men and Women
Medically reviewed by Elaine K.
Luo, MD on January 23, 2018 — Written by Colleen Story
- Early symptoms
- Symptoms inmen
- Symptoms in women
- Silent symptoms
If you ask about the symptoms of a heart attack, most people think of chest pain. Over the last couple of decades, however, scientists have learned that heart attack symptoms aren’t always so clear-cut.
Symptoms may show up in different ways and can depend on a number of factors, such as whether you’re a man or a woman, what type of heart disease you have, and how old you are.
It’s important to dig a little deeper to understand the variety of symptoms that may indicate a heart attack. Uncovering more information can help you learn when to help yourself and your loved ones.
The sooner you get help for a heart attack, the better your chances for a complete recovery. Unfortunately, many people hesitate to get help, even if they suspect there’s something wrong.
Doctors, however, overwhelmingly encourage people to get help if they suspect they’re experiencing early heart attack symptoms.
Even if you’re wrong, going through some testing is better than suffering long-term heart damage or other health issues because you waited too long.
Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person and even from one heart attack to another. The important thing is to trust yourself. You know your body better than anyone. If something feels wrong, get emergency care right away.
According to the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care, early heart attack symptoms occur in 50 percent of all people who have heart attacks. If you’re aware of the early symptoms, you may be able get treatment quickly enough to prevent heart damage.
Eighty-five percent of heart damage happens in the first two hours following a heart attack.
Early symptoms of heart attack can include the following:
- mild pain or discomfort in your chest that may come and go, which is also called “stuttering” chest pain
- pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw
- nausea or vomiting
- lightheadedness or fainting
- feeling of “impending doom”
- severe anxiety or confusion
You’re more ly to experience a heart attack if you’re a man. Men also have heart attacks earlier in life compared to women. If you have a family history of heart disease or a history of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, or other risk factors, your chances of having a heart attack are even higher.
Fortunately, a lot of research has been done on how men’s hearts react during heart attacks.
Symptoms of a heart attack in men include:
- standard chest pain/pressure that feels “an elephant” is sitting on your chest, with a squeezing sensation that may come and go or remain constant and intense
- upper body pain or discomfort, including arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- stomach discomfort that feels indigestion
- shortness of breath, which may leave you feeling you can’t get enough air, even when you’re resting
- dizziness or feeling you’re going to pass out
- breaking out in a cold sweat
It’s important to remember, however, that each heart attack is different. Your symptoms may not fit this cookie-cutter description. Trust your instincts if you think something is wrong.
In recent decades, scientists have realized that heart attack symptoms can be quite different for women than for men.
In 2003, the journal Circulation published the findings of a multicenter study of 515 women who’d experienced a heart attack. The most frequently reported symptoms didn’t include chest pain. Instead, women reported unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, and anxiety. Nearly 80 percent reported experiencing at least one symptom for more than a month before their heart attack.
Symptoms of heart attack in women include:
- unusual fatigue lasting for several days or sudden severe fatigue
- sleep disturbances
- shortness of breath
- indigestion or gas- pain
- upper back, shoulder, or throat pain
- jaw pain or pain that spreads up to your jaw
- pressure or pain in the center of your chest, which may spread to your arm
In a 2012 survey published in the journal Circulation, only 65 percent of women said they’d call 911 if they thought they might be having a heart attack.
Even if you’re not sure, get emergency care right away.
Base your decision on what feels normal and abnormal for you. If you haven’t experienced symptoms this before, don’t hesitate to get help. If you don’t agree with your doctor’s conclusion, get a second opinion.
Heart attack in women over 50
Women experience significant physical changes around age 50, the age when many women start to go through menopause. During this period of life, your levels of the hormone estrogen drop. Estrogen is believed to help protect the health of your heart. After menopause, your risk of heart attack increases.
Unfortunately, women who experience a heart attack are less ly to survive than men. Therefore, it becomes even more important to remain conscious of your heart health after you go through menopause.
There are additional symptoms of a heart attack that women over the age of 50 may experience. These symptoms include:
- severe chest pain
- pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
Remain aware of these symptoms and schedule regular health checkups with your doctor.
A silent heart attack is any other heart attack, except it occurs without the usual symptoms. In other words, you may not even realize you’ve experienced a heart attack.
In fact, researchers from Duke University Medical Center have estimated that as many as 200,000 Americans experience heart attacks each year without even knowing it. Unfortunately, these events cause heart damage and increase the risk of future attacks.
Silent heart attacks are more common among people with diabetes and in those who’ve had previous heart attacks.
Symptoms that may indicate a silent heart attack include:
- mild discomfort in your chest, arms, or jaw that goes away after resting
- shortness of breath and tiring easily
- sleep disturbances and increased fatigue
- abdominal pain or heartburn
- skin clamminess
After having a silent heart attack, you may experience more fatigue than before or find that exercise becomes more difficult. Get regular physical exams to stay on top of your heart health. If you have cardiac risk factors, talk to your doctor about getting tests done to check the condition of your heart.
By scheduling regular checkups and learning to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, you can help lower your risk of severe heart damage from a heart attack. This may increase your life expectancy and well-being.
10 Heart Attack Symptoms in Women – Signs of a Heart Attack for Women
Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in both men and women worldwide. Contrast to what you may see in a movie, the signs of a real-life heart attack can be hard to miss. “Two-thirds of women will have less-typical, non-Hollywood heart attack symptoms,” says C.
Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.
This means they can be much harder to spot, and it can be easy to think symptoms of a heart attack are related to more simple health issues such as indigestion.
Though symptoms chest tightness and upper body pain are more obvious, heart attacks present a host of symptoms that can be easily mistaken for another ailment (think nausea, heartburn, and fatigue). Identifying the signs of a heart attack and seeking early intervention can be the difference between life or death. Here are the most common symptoms to look out for.
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2 Muscle strain.
If you have muscle strain and soreness in your shoulders or upper back that you can't link to any physical injury, it could be a sign of a silent heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.
Silent heart attacks have few or no recognizable symptoms and are just as dangerous as heart attacks that have clear symptoms, according to the AHA.
The organization recommends seeing a doctor and being ready to advocate for yourself and for testing to get your heart checked, or to bring a friend or family member with you who can be your advocate.
3 Uncomfortable pressure.
The very first symptom of a heart attack listed by the American Heart Association is “uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of your chest.” This discomfort may come in waves lasting more than a few minutes at a time.
4 Pain in other areas of the body.
Heart attack pain can occur in places other than the chest, the back, shoulders, arms, neck or jaw.
According to Cleveland Clinic, when there's a problem in the heart, such as a blocked artery, it can trigger the nerves in your heart to give a signal that something is wrong, and you'll feel pain.
Considering the vagus nerve is connected to not only the heart, but also the brain, chest, abdomen, and neck, you may feel those pain signals in other areas of the body aside from the heart region.
Many things can make you dizzy: not drinking enough water, skipping lunch, or standing up too fast. But dizziness or lightheadedness coupled with chest pain and shortness of breath may signify a decrease in blood volume and a drop in blood pressure, which means a heart attack could be on it's way.
7 Nausea or indigestion.
According to Stoney Brook Medicine, gastric symptoms a queasy stomach, vomiting, or belching develop when the heart and other areas of the body aren't receiving enough blood supply. It can be misjudged as acid reflux or heartburn, so it's important to reach out to your doctor, especially if you're having other heart attack symptoms.
Unless you're going through menopause or have just exercised, breaking out into a cold sweat or perspiring excessively could signal a heart attack. During a heart attack, your nervous system activates a “fight or flight” response that puts you in survival mode and could lead to sweating.
9 Heart palpitations.
When the heart is lacking adequate blood supply, all sorts of things can happen in the body. According to Stoney Brook Medicine, the heart can begin to get irritable when it lacks nutrient-filled blood, which leads to the sensation of heart palpitations. If you feel you're having heart palpitations, make sure you contact your doctor right away.
10 Shortness of breath.
Walking up the stairs used to be a breeze, but if you recently have been finding it harder and harder to make the climb, seek medical attention immediately.
Even though this doesn't necessarily mean you're about to have a heart attack at this moment, it could be a sign that your heart is in danger.
According to the AHA, shortness of breath could come with or without any chest pain.
Insomnia and 7 other signs of a heart attack that start one month before deadly event
SOMEONE clutching their chest tends to be the stereotypical image when we think of someone having a heart attack.
But in reality it's rarely that dramatic.
There are several early heart attack warnings signs – that can present themselves up to a month beforehandCredit: Getty – Contributor
Many people don't realise that you can have a heart attack without feeling any chest pain at all.
In fact, there are some early warning signs that can present themselves up to a month before the life-threatening event.
Most of which can easily be confused with other conditions – or simply overlooked.
It's especially the case for women who experts say are less ly to seek medical attention and treatment quickly.
Prevention is always better than cure so it's valuable to know what to look out for.
Here are some of the warning signs…
We can also experience feeling tired from time to time, but experts say that extreme fatigue can be a sign that something is wrong.
It's much more ly to affect women – around 70 per cent – who also may also put their symptoms down to flu, according to Healthline.
Feel exhausted for no reason could begin months before a heart attack, which is why it's vital to see a doctor as early as possible.
2. Abdominal pain
Pain in the abdomen, empty or full stomach nausea, feeling bloated and an upset stomach are some of the most common symptoms.
Some 50 per cent of cases of a heart attack involved some sort of abdominal pain, according to Bright Side.
They have an episodic nature – easing and then returning for short periods of time.
- A heart attack happens when the heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood, often as a result of a blockage
- The lack of oxygen causes the muscle to be damaged
- Most heart attacks are triggered by coronary heart disease, the British Heart Foundation notes
- This is when the coronary arteries – the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood, become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fat inside the walls
- If a piece of this fatty material breaks away, it can cause a blood clot or blockage to form. If it then blocks the coronary artery it can cut off the blood supply to the heart
As heart attacks tend to affect older people, these these signs are often dismissed as heartburn or other food-related complications.
If you normally have a tough stomach, then this could be a signal from your body that something is up.
Insomnia is also linked with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke – and is more common among women.
Symptoms include difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, and early-morning awakening.
Experts have previously found significant associations between insomnia and heart attack risk.
Researchers in China, reporting in the journal Neurology, found that people who had three types of insomnia symptoms were 18 per cent more ly to have a heart attack or stroke.
4. Shortness of breath
The heart pumps blood so it can circulate to your tissues and get oxygen to your lungs.
If your heart can't pump blood effectively – as is the case with a heart attack – then it can cause breathlessness.
This symptom is diagnosed in 40 per cent of cases and is a strong feeling of being unable to draw a deep breath.
It can be an accompanying symptom to unusual fatigue in women, but can occur for both genders up to six months prior to a heart attack.
5. Hair loss
Losing hair is considered to be another visible indicator of the risk of heart disease.
It tends to most commonly affect men over 50, but some women may also be affected.
Pay close attention to losing hair from the crown of your head especially, says Bright Side.
6. Irregular heartbeat
Heart rhythm problems, known as arrhythmias, occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don't work properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly, according to Mayo Clinic.
It may feel a fluttering or racing heart and can be accompanied by a panic attack, especially among women.
Some people report that the irregular heartbeat lasts for one to two minutes. If it doesn't fade you may feel dizziness or extreme fatigue.
If you are suffering this symptom it's important to speak to a GP immediately or call 111.
7. Excessive sweating
Sweating more than usual – especially if you've not been active – could be an early warning sign.
Pumping blood around clogged arteries takes more effort from your heart, so your body sweats more to try to keep the body temperature down.
Women often mistake this symptom as a hot flush or a night sweat more typical of menopause.
But if you wake up and the sheets are damp or experience cold sweats and clammy skin then it's worth consulting your doctor.
8. Chest pain
Chest pain, or discomfort, is one of the most common early sign of a heart attack.
People have described it as feeling an elephant standing on their chest.
Others say it's more of a chest tightness or squeezing sensation.
It may seem bad for a few minutes and then go away, and come back hours or even a day later.
Chest pain tends to affect just 30 per cent of women – which is why it's vital to know the other signs.
If you are suffering this symptom, speak to your GP immediately or call 111 for advice.
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A heart attack is a medical emergency and can be life threatening.
If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 999 for an ambulance immediately.
If you’re not sure, it’s still important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to be on the safe side.
Heart attack in women: 8 symptoms and risk factors
A heart attack is a life-threatening event caused by a disruption in the blood flow to the heart. Knowing the female-specific symptoms of a heart attack could help a person seek medical attention sooner, which may save their life.
Women are less ly to survive their first heart attack than men. This may be because the symptoms differ between the sexes. Women are more ly to have a “silent” heart attack or display unusual symptoms.
Also, female biology creates unique risk factors for heart attack, as some diseases that increase risk, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), are not present in male biology.
Share on PinterestChest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack.
Many people expect a heart attack to come on suddenly. But research suggests that women experience symptoms for several weeks before a heart attack.
A study published in 2003 of 515 women who had experienced a heart attack, reports 80 percent of women had at least 1 symptom at least 4 weeks before their heart attack.
Symptoms may be constant or come and go, and they may also disrupt sleep.
It is vital for a woman who experiences any of these symptoms to seek help immediately, as heart attacks can be fatal, regardless of whether symptoms are mild or severe.
Eight of the symptoms of a possible heart attack are:
1. Chest pain
The most common symptom of heart attack in both males and females is chest pain or discomfort.
It may be described as:
However, women can experience a heart attack without having any chest discomfort.
Some 29.7 percent of the women surveyed in the 2003 study experienced chest discomfort in the weeks before the attack. Also, 57 percent had chest pain during the heart attack.
2. Extreme or unusual fatigue
Unusual fatigue is often reported in the weeks leading up to a heart attack. Fatigue is also experienced just before the event occurs.
Even simple activities that do not require much exertion can lead to feelings of being exhausted.
Feeling weak or shaky is a common acute symptom of a heart attack in a female.
This weakness or shaking may be accompanied by:
- feeling lightheaded
Excessive sweating without a normal cause is another common heart attack symptom in women.
Feeling cold and clammy can also be an indicator of heart problems.
6. Upper body pain
This is usually non-specific and cannot be attributed to a particular muscle or joint in the upper body.
Areas that can be affected include:
- upper back or either arm
The pain can start in one area and gradually spread to others, or it may come on suddenly.
7. Sleep disturbances
Share on PinterestDifficulty getting to sleep and unusual waking may be issues before a heart attack.
Almost half of women in the 2003 study reported issues with sleep in the weeks before they had a heart attack.
These disturbances may involve:
- difficulty getting to sleep
- unusual waking throughout the night
- feeling tired despite getting enough sleep
8. Stomach problems
Some women may feel pain or pressure in the stomach before a heart attack.
Other digestive issues associated with a possible heart attack can include:
The risk of heart attack increases due to falling estrogen levels after menopause.
Post-menopause heart attack symptoms include:
- pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- severe chest pain
- sweating without activity
Risk factors for a heart attack in women include:
- Age: Those aged 55 years or older are at greater risk of heart attack. This may be because hormones provide some protection from heart disease before menopause.
- Family history: Those with a male relative who had a heart attack by the age of 55 years old, or a female relative who has had one by 65 years of age, are considered to have a family history of heart attack and are at increased risk.
- Health status: Certain markers, such as high blood pressure and high-cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attack in both males and females.
- Medical conditions: Those with conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disorders are more ly to have a heart attack. Diseases such as endometriosis, PCOS, or a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy also increase risk.
- Lifestyle choices: Using tobacco or stimulant drugs, for example, cocaine or amphetamines, a sedentary lifestyle, or high levels of stress will all increase the risk of heart attack.
The British Heart Foundation recommend all women over 40 years of age have regular checks with their doctor. This helps identify risk factors early so that they can be treated. Early intervention reduces the chances of a cardiac event.
Anyone who notices the warning signs of a heart attack, such as the following, should see a doctor immediately:
- unusual fatigue
- shortness of breath
- upper body pain
A doctor will note symptoms, check blood pressure and heart rate, and may order blood tests or use an electrocardiogram (EKG) to see the heart’s electrical activity.
Share on PinterestAnyone who suspects symptoms of a heart attack should call emergency services immediately.
Only 65 percent of women would call emergency services if they suspected they were having a heart attack, according to a 2012 survey.
Emergency treatment can save lives. Anyone noticing the following symptoms should call an ambulance immediately, especially if the signs are present for 5 minutes or more:
- chest pain or discomfort
- pain in the upper body, including arms, back, neck, jaw, or shoulder
- difficulty breathing
- extreme weakness
- indigestion or heartburn
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- unexplained anxiety
Tips for better heart health include:
- Going for regular health check-ups with your doctor.
- Taking steps to manage other health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
- Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco in any form. Heart disease risk reduces by 50 percent just 12 months after someone quits smoking.
- Not using illegal drugs, especially stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines.
- Losing weight if overweight.
- Engaging in at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity, such as walking, every day.
- Eating a balanced diet and visiting a dietician if necessary for dietary advice.
A heart attack is a serious and potentially fatal medical event that requires emergency treatment. Women tend to display different heart attack symptoms than men. They also have additional risk factors.
There are many steps women can take to reduce their risk of a heart attack. An awareness of the symptoms of heart attack, especially in the weeks before the event, can also improve outcomes and prevent complications.
- Cardiovascular / Cardiology
- Emergency Medicine
- Women's Health / Gynecology
The danger of “silent” heart attacks
Harvard Men's Health Watch
Image: goir/Getty Images
You can have a heart attack and not even know it. A silent heart attack, known as a silent myocardial infarction (SMI), account for 45% of heart attacks and strike men more than women.
They are described as “silent” because when they occur, their symptoms lack the intensity of a classic heart attack, such as extreme chest pain and pressure; stabbing pain in the arm, neck, or jaw; sudden shortness of breath; sweating, and dizziness.
“SMI symptoms can feel so mild, and be so brief, they often get confused for regular discomfort or another less serious problem, and thus men ignore them,” says Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of the vascular disease prevention program at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
For instance, men may feel fatigue or physical discomfort and chalk it up to overwork, poor sleep, or some general age-related ache or pain. Other typical symptoms mild pain in the throat or chest can be confused with gastric reflux, indigestion, and heartburn.
Also, the location of pain is sometimes misunderstood. With SMI, you may feel discomfort in the center of the chest and not a sharp pain on the left side of the chest, which many people associate with a heart attack. “People can even feel completely normal during an SMI and afterward, too, which further adds to the chance of missing the warning signs,” says Dr. Plutzky.
SMI: Unaware of possible danger
The number of people who suffer an SMI and don't realize it is alarming. A study in the Nov. 10, 2015, Journal of the American Medical Association looked at almost 2,000 people ages 45 to 84 (half of whom were men) who were free of cardiovascular disease.
After 10 years, 8% had myocardial scars, which are evidence of a heart attack. Most surprising was that 80% of these people were unaware of their condition. Overall, the prevalence of myocardial scars was five times higher in men than in women.
SMI and regular heart attacks share the same risk factors: smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes. They can be just as dangerous, too.
“SMI often leaves scarring and damage to the heart, which, combined with the fact that many people who have an SMI don't seek immediate care, can further raise a person's risk of a second and potentially more harmful heart attack,” says Dr. Plutzky.
In fact, people who have an SMI and don't get treatment have a three times greater risk of dying from coronary artery disease. “A silent heart attack is a loud signal your body sends that you have some kind of underlying health issue that needs attention,” says Dr. Plutzky.
How to get checked out
Men may not be aware they had an SMI until weeks or even months later when they see their doctor for a regular visit, or because of persistent symptoms fatigue, shortness of breath, or heartburn.
SMI is usually detected from an electrocardiogram (EKG) or echocardiogram, which can highlight heart muscle damage. Another method is a blood test for the molecular footprints of troponin T, a protein released by injured heart cells. That test is often used in emergency departments for patients with heart attack symptoms.
Once an SMI is diagnosed, your doctor can identify your main risk factors and help design a treatment strategy, such as changing your diet, exercising regularly, or taking statins, if needed, as well as other medication to help prevent a second heart attack .
“If you do notice any symptoms of a SMI, do not brush them aside, even if you do not think they are serious,” says Dr. Plutzky. “Playing it safe is always a better move than risking the potential harmful downside.”
SMI symptoms are often mild and brief. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience one or more of the following:
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