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Silent heart attack: what are the signs, symptoms and warning signals? What examinations provide clarity

Silent heart attack, the dangerous brother of the already dreaded heart attack, is responsible for nearly 45 percent of cases, according to Harvard Medical School. It is dangerous because it occurs quietly and can often go unnoticed for days, weeks and months. According to the Federal Statistical Office (1), a total of 985,572 people died in Germany in 2020. 338 001 of them from diseases of the cardiovascular system. Of these, 44 529 died of acute or recurrent myocardial infarction. Nearly half of the cases are unrecognized or under-recognized. This increases the risk of death from coronary artery disease.

Silent heart attack: signs and symptoms

Classic heart attack intensity cannot be ignored

The name “silent heart attack” or “silent heart attack” comes from the fact that this form does not come with the familiar symptoms. These may include: extreme chest pain and pressure, sharp pain in the arm, neck or jaw, sudden shortness of breath, cold sweats or dizziness. These alarm signals from the body indicate that something serious may be going on. They alert us so we can seek medical help. In silent heart attacks, these accompanying symptoms lack intensity, so there may be little or no awareness of the heart attack.

Silent heart attack: symptoms

Silent heart attack Diffuse symptoms that are easily confused

Symptoms are usually experienced as general malaise. Complaints such as fatigue or general physical discomfort, the causes of which could easily be attributed to other causes, are mentioned. For example, overwork, lack of sleep, or frailty and discomfort attributed to age. Other symptoms may include mild pain in the throat or chest, which could easily be mistaken for indigestion, indigestion, or heartburn. Chest pain also tends to be mild, unlike the stabbing, left-sided pain of the classic heart attack. Sufferers locate this centrally in the chest. It may even be that a silent heart attack passes without the perception of any symptoms. The affected person misses this infarction and it goes completely unnoticed.

Can remain unnoticed for a long time

ECG Detects damage to the heart muscles

According to a 2o15 study by the American Medical Association, the number of people who suffer silent heart attacks that go unnoticed is alarmingly high. The study looked at 2000 subjects between the ages of 45 – 84. The experimental group consisted of 50% male and 50% female study participants. All were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. After ten years, 8% of the study participants were found to have scarring in the heart muscle tissue. This scarring is considered clear evidence of a suffered myocardial infarction. Most surprising was the fact that 80% of the affected study participants were unaware that they had suffered such an event. Overall, the finding of scarring on myocardial tissue was five times higher in male study participants than in females.

Risk factors

Silent heart attack the invisible incident that leaves a mark

The risk factors of silent myocardial infarction are generally similar to those of classic myocardial infarction. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels and diabetes top the list of risk factors here as well. Such a heart attack leaves scars on the heart muscle tissue. Together with the fact that the person is in the dark about the incident and therefore does not seek treatment, increases the risk of another, more intense infarction. It also increases the risk of dying from coronary heart disease. Such a heart attack is a clear sign of the presence of cardiovascular disease and a signal that something needs to be done.

Silent heart attack: diagnosis and examination

Silent heart attack ECG examination by your doctor can provide clarity

Silent heart attack can therefore go unnoticed for days, months or years. Until the patient eventually goes to the next medical checkup, where he or she expresses persistent symptoms and complaints such as fatigue, shortness of breath or heartburn. Then, with the help of an ECG or an echogram, the physician can determine whether there may be damage to the heart muscle tissue. Another testing option is a blood test that looks for traces of the protein troponin t and detects it if necessary. Troponin is a protein released by damaged heart cells. This test is a commonly used tool in the emergency department that finds its use in determining whether a patient with myocardial infarction symptoms actually has a myocardial infarction.


In coronary heart disease, dietary changes for heart health

If your doctor has diagnosed the occurrence, he or she can help you identify your individual major risk factors for treatment and follow-up. As well as determine an individualized treatment strategy for you. This may include dietary changes and planning exercise therapy, as well as prescribing medications such as statins or others. The goal is to prevent the risk of a possible further heart attack.

Doctor discusses treatment strategy and conversion needs

If you feel something is wrong and suspect it may be a silent heart attack, don’t hesitate, but play it safe. Even though the symptoms may seem trivial, it’s better to go to the doctor’s office once more than to risk a major health hazard.

(1) Data from the Federal Statistical Office.