‘Silent’ Heart Attacks: Vital Facts on Symptoms and Prevention

Nearly halfof all heart attacks may be “silent” – occurring without any symptoms or withsymptoms that are mistaken for less serious health issues – according toresearch published by the American Heart Association.

They areoften referred to as “silent heart attacks” because they lack the traditionalsigns of a cardiac event, such as extreme chest pain or pressure; stabbing painin the arm, neck, or jaw — or even shortness of breath.

“Unlikeheart attacks that present with classic squeezing chest pain, or with radiationto the arm or jaw, they are often asymptomatic or have mild symptoms that arecommonly disregarded or ignored,” explains TarakRambhatla, M.D., cardiologist with MiamiCardiac & Vascular Institute, part of Baptist Health SouthFlorida. “Patients may just feel overall unwell, a sense of fatigue, orgeneral discomfort. Patients may also even feel well or normal.”

Silent heartattacks can produce symptoms such as indigestion, nausea, muscle pain or even amalaise that resembles a bad case of the flu. “Anyone who feels a changein their normal well-being, such as fatigue, weakness, decrease in exercisetolerance, or new symptoms that are not expected, such as indigestion, heartburn, nausea, or mild discomfort in the chest area, should prompt medicalattention,” says Dr. Rambhatla.

It’sespecially critical for some individuals to seek medical help if they feelthese changes — including patients with risk factors for heart disease, such adiabetes, a family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, high bloodpressure, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, and previously diagnosed heartdisease, adds Dr. Rambhatla.

Silent heartattacks occur more commonly in patients with diabetes, older-aged patients, andmen, he adds.

Dr.Rambhatla points to the AmericanHeart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” plan as an effectiveprevention program to help those at risk for silent heart attacks or heartdisease. It covers the seven key areas of prevention: Managing blood pressure,controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, exercising regularly, healthyeating, weight management and not smoking.

“Life’ssimple seven tips and tools for leading a heart healthy life are: eating healthy(diet low in bad fat and sugars), increasing physical activity (150 minutes ofmoderate exercise per week), losing weight, quit smoking, reducing blood sugar,controlling cholesterol, and managing blood pressure,” says Dr. Rambhatla.

Heencourages all his patients to follow “Life’s Simple 7” and establishroutine care with a physician (primary care doctor or cardiologist).

“Thebest management is aggressive prevention,” he says. “The goal is todiagnose and intervene early so that we can avoid having to treat patientsafter the fact — after a patient already suffers a heart attack.”

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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