Can You Have Had A Heart Attack And Not Know It
Many of us have contemplated the question Can we have a heart attack and not know it? But before getting into that, let us first understand what a heart attack is.A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction , is coronary thrombosis, which means that the blood supply to a part of heart muscle is compromised, mostly due to plaque formation in coronary artery. Now to answer the above question: Yes, we can have a heart attack and not know about it. These types of heart attacks are generally referred to as Silent Heart Attacks. As the name implies, they are silent in nature and their symptoms are subtle.
Apparently there is no test to determine the probability of a silent heart attack, but risk factors can be identified and treated. Also lifestyle changes with diet and exercise play a significant role in preventing those. Also listen to your body and seek medical attention when in doubt.
I Thought I Had The Flu
Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging.
They do this because they are scared and because they put their families first, Goldberg said. There are still many women who are shocked that they could be having a heart attack.
A heart attack strikes someone about every 43 seconds. It occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because the arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances .
Many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable the image of the elephant comes to mind but in fact they can be subtler and sometimes confusing.
You could feel so short of breath, as though you ran a marathon, but you haven’t made a move, Goldberg said.
Some women experiencing a heart attack describe upper back pressure that feels like squeezing or a rope being tied around them, Goldberg said. Dizziness, lightheadedness or actually fainting are other symptoms to look for.
Many women I see take an aspirin if they think they are having a heart attack and never call 911, Goldberg said. But if they think about taking an aspirin for their heart attack, they should also call 911.
Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection
SCAD is a type of heart attack that happens when the inner lining of a coronary artery tears for no clear reason, slowing or blocking blood flow down the artery.
SCAD can occur in otherwise healthy people who do not have the typical risk factors of heart disease. And according to an article in Clinical Cardiology , about 90% of SCADs happen to women between the age of 30 and 60.
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What Is A Silent Heart Attack
Its true that some people have what are sometimes referred to as silent heart attacks. These result from temporary blockages in the coronary arteries. Sometimes they dont even produce mild heart attack symptoms, but many times they do. Evidence of a silent heart attack may only appear much later when your doctor is examining your heart for other reasons.
Silent heart attacks usually cause the same symptoms as other heart attacks but they are milder and dont last as long. Because they may never result in a visit to the ER, they remain silent.
But you cant count on a heart attack to be temporary or to cause only minimal damage. So treat major or minor heart attack symptoms as an emergency. The faster you seek medical help for a heart attack, the less damage your heart will suffer. A disruption of blood flow to the heart is a problem, and there will be consequences.
If you have risk factors for a heart attack, including high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease, and you start to feel heart attack symptoms of any kind, call 911. Dont try to drive yourself to a hospital. Your symptoms may become overwhelming, placing yourself and other motorists at risk on the road.
Make sure your loved ones know the symptoms of a heart attack and what to do if you or someone in your home starts to experience one. Sometimes fast treatment is what makes the difference between a heart attack being mild or major.
Surprising Signs You May Be Having A Heart Attack
Luis Astudillo, M.D. contributes to topics such as Cardiology.
When people have heart attacks in movies, they usually clutch their chests dramatically, break out in a cold sweat and drop to the floor. In real life, some people experience heart attacks this way, but there are many other less obvious symptoms which may indicate that someone is having a heart attack.
Its important to know all of the signs including subtler ones to ensure that you get the emergency care that you need.
Many people who have heart attacks dont have classic symptoms, so they may think that theyre experiencing indigestion, fatigue or muscle soreness from physical exertion, says Luis Astudillo, M.D., a cardiologist at Palisades Medical Center. Women and older adults in particular may not exhibit the typical signs that many people would immediately recognize.
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Silent Heart Attack Treatment
Normally, silent heart attacks are found long after the heart attack is over. Treatment will mostly involve taking medicines. These medicines help improve blood flow to your heart, prevent clotting, and reduce the risks of having another heart attack. They include:
- ACE inhibitors
- fish oil
Your doctor will prescribe the medicines that are right for you. If you have had a heart attack, your doctor will also talk to you about lifestyle changes. You can make these changes to prevent more heart problems.
Heart Attack Symptoms: Women Vs Men
Women may experience classic symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath as many men do, but they also tend to experience stomach pain, back pain, and other non-classic symptoms.
Because of the subtlety in those symptoms, many women brush off these warning signs and already have heart damage by the time they get to the Emergency Department.
And many women put their families before their own health. But you cant take care of your loved ones if your own health is not where it needs to be.
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What A Mild Heart Attack Means
A mild heart attack is a common way of referring to what physicians call a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction, or NSTEMI. .
In this type of heart attack, blood flow through one of the coronary arteries was partially blocked, limiting the supply of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle.
If you were told youve had a mild heart attack, it probably means your heart didnt suffer much damage and still pumps normally, Dr. Campbell says.
What Causes A Heart Attack
By definition, a heart attack is the result of blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle. These blood vessels are called coronary arteries. Youve probably heard the term coronary artery disease, or CAD. That just means that theres plaque buildup in one or more of the hearts arteries, and that its reducing or blocking blood flow in those arteries. The plaque is a waxy substance that includes LDL cholesterol, fats, and other waste products from your bloodstream.The process of plaque building up in your arteries is called atherosclerosis. You may know it by a more familiar name: hardening of the arteries. This buildup takes place over many years.
There are some less-common heart attack causes, too. One of your coronary arteries could spasm and shut off blood flow to the heart muscle. Sometimes smoking or illicit drugs can result in coronary artery spasm. A spasm can occur in a coronary artery that isnt affected by atherosclerosis.
Also unusual, but still possible, is a tear in the inner wall of a coronary artery this is called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection. An artery has three walls or layers. When blood seeps through a tear in the inner layer, it can become trapped and bulge inward. As a result, blood flow through that artery becomes blocked.
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What Causes Silent Heart Attacks
Silent heart attacks are caused by the same things that cause traditional heart attacks. This happens when part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies because it hasnt received enough oxygen. This is often due to a blocked artery in the heart. Risk factors for silent heart attacks are also the same. They include:
- Age risk increases for men older than 45 and for women older than 55 .
- High cholesterol.
- Family history of heart attack.
- Race African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans and native Hawaiians are at greater risk.
- Lack of exercise.
- Gender women have silent heart attacks more often than men.
Heart Attacks When Theres A Language Barrier
Research has found that individuals who dont speak the local language are less likely to:
- know the signs and symptoms of heart attack
- see doctors regularly, which may help to lower the risk of heart attack
Others who may be unable to communicate efficiently could experience the same problems. Additionally, adults who are nonverbal may have difficulty expressing that theyre having a heart attack and need medical attention.
If your loved one has communication challenges and doesnt feel well, ask about subtle symptoms. You may help them get the care that they need.
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Heart Attack Symptoms In Women Vs Men
Women are more likely than men to have silent heart attacks and heart attacks without chest pain. Heart attacks are also more likely to start when a woman is at rest or experiencing mental stress.
That means its especially important for women to watch out for symptoms like shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, nausea or vomiting, or pain in the jaw, arms or back.
Also, we now know that young women are particularly prone to a type of heart event called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection , which we talk about in more depth below.
Common Heart Attack Types And Treatments
The type of heart attack you experienced determines the treatments that your medical team will recommend. A heart attack occurs when a blockage in one or more coronary arteries reduces or stops blood flow to the heart, which starves part of the heart muscle of oxygen.
The blockage might be complete or partial:
- A complete blockage of a coronary artery means you suffered a STEMI heart attack or ST-elevation myocardial infarction.
- A partial blockage is an NSTEMI heart attack or a non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction
Treatments differ for a STEMI versus NSTEMI heart attack, although there can be some overlap.
Hospitals commonly use techniques to restore blood flow to part of the heart muscle damaged during a heart attack:
- You might receive clot-dissolving drugs , balloon angioplasty , surgery or a combination of treatments.
- About 36 percent of hospitals in the U.S. are equipped to use a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention , a mechanical means of treating heart attack.
At a hospital equipped to administer PCI, you would likely be sent to a department that specializes in cardiac catheterization, sometimes called a cath lab. There, a diagnostic angiogram can examine blood flow to your heart and reveal how well your heart is pumping. Depending on the results of that procedure, you may be routed to one of three treatments: medical therapy only, PCI or coronary artery bypass grafting .
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What Does A Heart Attack Feel Like
Some of the sensations you may feel during a heart attack include:
- Chest pain that can range from mild to severe, or an uncomfortable pressure, tightness, squeezing or heaviness in your chest. The discomfort can last more than a few minutes at a time and sometimes goes away for a short time but returns later.
- Pain or a sensation of being squeezed that starts in the upper back.
- Pain that starts from your left shoulder and arm, and goes into other areas such as your back, jaw, neck or right arm.
- Pain that feels like heartburn or indigestion.
Symptoms Of Silent Heart Attack
As some of us may know the symptoms of a classic heart attack are chest pain, pain on the left/both sides of the body such as hands, shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, shortness of breath, sweats and dizziness. In silent heart attack, we may or may not have such symptoms. The symptoms are so vague and subtle that we do not associate them with heart attack. People might have some of the non-classical symptoms such as fatigue, indigestion, discomfort in the upper back or jaw, nausea or vomiting and lightheadedness. People do not call for medical attention as they are not aware that they are having a heart attack.
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A Simple And Highly Sensitive Blood Test Can Detect If You Just Suffered A Heart Attackand This Test Is So Super Sensitive That It Can Detect Even A Mild Heart Attack
The blood test is for an enzymatic protein called troponin. The troponin blood test for heart attack is highly sensitive and is considered the gold standard for determining damage to cardiac muscle.
Cardiac enzymes are chemicals contained within heart cells, says Christopher J. Hanifin, PA-C, who was previously a physician assistant in open heart surgery with Cardiothoracic Surgery of South Bend in South Bend, IN.
Normally, they are essentially undetectable in the bloodstream, continues Hanifin.
When a person suffers a heart attack, cells in the heart die and rupture, releasing these enzymes into the blood where they can be detected.
Diagnosis of a heart attack is usually based upon the detection of elevated levels of these chemicals in the blood.
If you go into an emergency room complaining of current or recent chest pain, the doctor or physician assistant will order a blood draw to check your troponin levels.
So if a patient goes to the emergency department with chest pain and their cardiac enzymes tests are negative, are they in the clear? Not necessarily, says Hanifin.
It takes some time for cardiac enzymes to appear in the blood. If a patient is tested in the early stages of a heart attack, it is very possible that their levels will be within normal ranges.
However, an elevated troponin level alone should not be used to outright diagnose heart attack.
Its never elevated by accident. As mentioned, this blood test is super sensitive.
How Is A Heart Attack Treated
Quick treatment to get the blood flowing to your heart muscle again is important. This can reduce the amount of permanent damage to your heart and save your life.
Many people need to have emergency treatment to restore the blood flow:
- Coronary angioplasty re-opens the blocked coronary artery by inserting one or more stents. This helps keep the narrowed artery open.
- Thrombolysis involves giving you clot-busting medicine to dissolve the blood clot that’s blocking the coronary artery.
- Coronary bypass surgery helps to restore normal blood flow by using a blood vessel from your leg, arm or chest in your heart to bypass the blocked artery.
You might not have these treatments if your doctor decides it’s not safe or necessary.
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Arm Back Neck Jaw Or Stomach Pain Or Discomfort
Heart attack pain may not be confined to the chest area. Pain or discomfort in your arm, back, neck, jaw, or stomach can also be heart attack-related.
But many people do not associate pain in these areas with having a heart attack which may prevent them from getting immediate medical attention.
Some head-to-toe signs of a heart attack include:
- Jaw, neck, or back pain
- Arm or shoulder pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
If you feel sudden discomfort in these areas, call 9-1-1.
Your Legs Feet And Ankles Are Swollen
This could be a sign that your heart doesnât pump blood as effectively as it should.
When the heart can’t pump fast enough, blood backs up in the veins and causes bloating.
Heart failure can also make it harder for the kidneys to remove extra water and sodium from the body, which can lead to bloating.
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People Who Have These So
- indigestion or
- a case of the flu, or
- they may think that they strained a muscle in their chest or their upper back.
- It also may not be discomfort in the chest, it may be in the jaw or the upper back or arms, she says.
Some folks have prolonged and excessive fatigue that is unexplained. Those are some of the less specific symptoms for a heart attack, but ones that people may ignore or attribute to something else.
How To Manage Silent Heart Attacks
Silent heart attack can be managed by identifying the risk factors such a high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, smoking, family history, diabetes, and lack of exercise. The risk factors can be evaluated and treated to prevent a second heart attack, as after a silent heart attack a person becomes at a greater risk of developing another heart attack.
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