When most people think of a heart attack, they think of the immense pain in your chest, shortness of breath and a feeling of dizziness. It would shock them to find out that you don’t necessarily experience any of these things when having an attack. In fact, a 2016 study referenced in the Harvard Health Blog showed that nearly 45% of attacks do not present any symptoms at all.
“Silent heart attacks” are very common, and are similarly a lack of oxygen to part of the heart caused by blockages or other anomalies. The fact that the heart overcomes this deficiency is why you don’t feel anything, but it is still just as dangerous and destructive as any other myocardial infarction.
More common among women, these silent attacks lead to future heart problems and death just as much as any other, but will likely not even be noticed. Doctors can determine if damage has been done, meaning everyone should (as always) get checked regularly.
The attack may leave some residual symptoms after it has ended, like chronic fatigue, neck or jaw pain, and shortness of breath following any exertion. Risk factors include: smoking, diabetes, obesity, family history of heart problems, high blood pressure and lack of exercise.
So what can we do? As we said above, especially if you’re over 35 get checked regularly by a physician and ask for an electrocardiogram (ECG) to assess your risk of heart disease. This is the best way to both spot a possible previous attack, and prevent future ones from happening.
Other simple changes you can make are quit smoking, reduce salt intake and lose weight. Alcohol abuse can also be a risk factor for heart disease (and many other health problems).
Even if you feel like you’re in good shape and don’t have any of the listed risk factors, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Heart disease can present itself in anyone, at anytime. Even if you’re running marathons, go get yourself checked and continue to treat your heart and body with respect.