Nearly Half of All Heart Attacks Strike Silently

A doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to a patient's healthy heart.
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Most of us can confidently identify well-known heart attack symptoms – chest pressure and pain, shortness of breath, sweating, and discomfort in the arm, neck and shoulders. If you or a loved one experience these symptoms, you’d know to call 911 to get help immediately. But not all symptoms are obvious.

“Silent” heart attacks — heart attacks you suffer without even realizing it — are more common than you’d think. In fact, one widely circulated study found that 45 percent of all heart attack victims have symptoms too subtle to recognize as signs of actual heart attack.

Knowing this, we want you to be aware of the more subtle signs of a heart attack. It could save your or a loved one’s life by acting quickly to get emergency whole-person care.

Learn to Recognize the Signs

Women, listen up! Since you’re likely to experience less classic and more subtle heart attack symptoms than men, you’re more susceptible to silent heart attacks.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all stay on our toes. Silent heart attacks can happen to anyone at any time. These hard-to-recognize symptoms include:

  • Back or jaw pain
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness/Lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea

Alone, each of these symptoms may seem minor. However, you shouldn’t dismiss them — especially if you experience more at once. Talking with your doctor about any episodes that leave you feeling “unlike yourself,” can be lifesaving. If your physician suspects heart issues, diagnostic tests — such as an EKG, stress test, and MRI — may be recommended to better understand your condition.

Understand Your Heart Attack Risk Factors

Many factors influence your risk for a heart attack, including:

  • Age
  • Blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Level of physical activity
  • Use of Tobacco products
  • Weight

The risk factors for a heart attack are the same whether the heart attack is silent or immediately diagnosed.

Working with your doctor to assess your current heart health is a great place to start.

AdventHealth offers many screenings to help identify your risk factors for heart disease, including:

  • Ankle-brachial index test
  • Blood glucose testing
  • Blood pressure monitoring
  • Body mass index (BMI) measurements
  • Fasting lipoprotein profile (cholesterol)
  • Postmenopausal screenings

Once you have a clear picture of your heart health, we can help you create a plan to reduce your risk for heart attack.

Take Steps to Be Heart Healthy

Those who’ve experienced heart attack understand the importance of changing their diet, getting more exercise and taking recommended medications to improve their heart health. Often describing their experience as a “wakeup call,” they’re willing to do whatever it takes to avoid another attack and are motivated to adopt a lifestyle that promotes whole health.

But because silent heart attack victims are completely unaware and don’t have the advantage of understanding their condition, they’re far more susceptible to having another heart attack in the future.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Don’t disregard even subtle symptoms that may point to a heart condition or could actually be a heart attack in progress. Trust your gut. Stop what you’re doing and call 911. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Your family and friends are counting on it.

If you have questions about your heart health, turn to us. We’re here to be your guide to feeling whole. Find your heart health specialist today.

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