By Dr. Shivram Bhonagiri, General Physician
A heart attack does not always have obvious symptoms, such as pain in your chest, shortness of breath and cold sweats. In fact, a heart attack can actually happen without a person knowing it. It is called a silent heart attack, or medically referred to as silent ischemia (lack of oxygen) to the heart muscle.
You may have never had any symptoms to warn you that you’ve developed a heart problem, such as chest pain or shortness of breath. Some people later recall their silent heart attack was mistaken for indigestion, nausea, muscle pain or a bad case of the flu.
The risk factors for a silent heart attack are the same as those for a heart attack with symptoms. The risk factors include:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Family history of heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Lack of exercise
- Being overweight
Having a silent heart attack puts you at a greater risk of having another heart attack, which could be fatal. Having another heart attack also increases your risk of complications, such as heart failure.
- General pain, soreness in the back, arms and chest: Soreness or pain in the back, arms and the chest are early signs of heart attack. You might generally tend to ignore such pain, considering it to be caused due to a muscle pull or a workout. However, if such pain is not usual, you should go and consult the doctor immediately.
- Shortness of breath: While, shortness of breath while plying a flight of stairs is normal, experiencing the same in unusual circumstances, such as right after waking up, might be tell-tale signs of an impending heart attack.
- Gastrointestinal problems: Though not very common, but gastro-intestinal problems can also be possible signs of a heart attack. So whenever you don’t feel quite right with that stomach pain, especially if coupled with nausea and vomiting, set up an appointment with your doctor to be sure of what might be causing them.
These healthy habits minimize the risks of heart attacks:
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
- Quit smoking.
- Keep your diabetes in check.
- Limited alcohol intake.
- Avoid stress and practice stress management and relaxation techniques.
- Keep your blood pressure level and cholesterol levels in check.
- Get adequate sleep every day (about 7-8 hours).