Approximately half of heart attack cases are ‘silent,’ often mistaken for other health issues. A cardiologist shares the top 5 signs of a silent heart attack.

While many of us recognize the classic symptoms of a heart attack, myocardial infarction can sometimes present itself in less recognizable signs. Unexplained fatigue, attributed to work stress or exhaustion, and gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea are common disguises for a silent heart attack. Almost 50% of heart attack cases are ‘silent,’ lacking the typical chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness, making it challenging for individuals to grasp the urgency of the situation. Despite going unnoticed, silent heart attacks can still inflict damage on the heart, increasing the risk of subsequent and more severe cardiac events. Paying attention to subtle body signals is crucial, especially for individuals with a history of heart disease or chronic conditions.

“While heart attacks are often linked with older individuals, it is no myth that they can affect anyone of any age or gender. While we are taught to identify the tell-tale signs of a heart attack, many individuals, especially younger ones, may be unaware of the symptoms of silent heart attacks, which can occur at any time and may not manifest with the expected chest pain,” explains Dr. Ravinder Singh Rao, MBBS, MD, DM, FACC, Interventional Structural Cardiologist.

Here are 5 signs and symptoms to be mindful of if you suspect a silent heart attack:

  1. Unexplained Fatigue: Persistent and unexplained fatigue during activities that were previously effortless can be a subtle sign of a silent heart attack. A compromised heart may redirect the body’s energy resources, leading to unexplained fatigue.
  2. Shortness of Breath: Sudden shortness of breath unrelated to physical exertion should alert individuals to the possibility of a silent heart attack. Reduced heart function may impede the body’s ability to receive adequate oxygen, resulting in breathlessness.
  3. Discomfort in the Upper Body: Discomfort in the upper body, including the arms, neck, jaw, or back, can indicate a silent heart attack. This discomfort might be mild and intermittent, making it easier to dismiss or attribute to other causes. Chest pain may not always be present.
  4. Nausea and Dizziness: Persistent nausea, sometimes accompanied by light-headedness or dizziness, may signify compromised heart function. The heart’s inability to pump blood effectively can lead to a drop in blood pressure, resulting in these sensations.
  5. Excessive Sweating: Profuse sweating beyond what is typical for the environment or physical activity may signal an underlying cardiovascular issue. Sweating can be the body’s response to stress on the heart, and its presence, especially alongside other symptoms, warrants attention.

“While these are not exclusive to silent heart attacks, any of these signs may also indicate other underlying health conditions and should receive immediate medical attention. Timely medical evaluation is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and intervention. Additionally, maintaining a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle, along with stress management, is essential for preventing cardiovascular issues in young individuals,” emphasizes Dr. Rao.

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