When you think of a heart attack, you may think of chest pains, shortness of breath, and pain in the left arm. What if your loved one didn’t have any of these symptoms? If so, they may have experienced what is known as a silent heart attack.
What is a Silent Heart Attack
In many cases, heart attacks — especially in older men — exhibit typical symptoms such as chest pain or pain in the left arm. But with a silent heart attack, also known as silent ischemia or lack of oxygen to the heart muscle, there are no obvious symptoms.
While the outcome is the same, lack of blood flow to a part of the heart which can cause damage to the heart muscle itself or scarring, the symptoms either don’t exist or are different than one would expect.
Symptoms of a Silent Heart Attack
Often this type of heart attack is detected when an MRI or EKG is performed well after the event. An older person may complain of fatigue or indigestion, but when tests are performed, the results show that a heart attack has occurred either weeks or even months before.
Symptoms can include:
- Feelings of a strained muscles in the back or chest area
- Discomfort in the jaw or upper arm area
- Excessive fatigue without reason
- Pain in the upper back area
- Feeling as if they are suffering from the flu
- Shortness of breath
Whatever you do, do not ignore odd symptoms. Instead, be sure to visit the doctor or encourage your loved one to go to the emergency room, even if you are not sure they are experiencing a heart attack. It is still best to take action as even silent heart attacks can be fatal.
How to Prevent a Silent Heart Attack
Keep track of your loved one’s cholesterol and blood pressure on a regular basis. Consider using an at home blood pressure cuff to check their blood pressure between doctor visits. If your family has a history of heart attacks, let the doctor know ahead of time.
Most people know when something isn’t quite right. It is important to not ignore any warning signals your body may be sending you and get checked out by a doctor.
Finally, try to incorporate moderate exercise into your loved one’s daily routine and be sure that smoking is not part of the equation. If exercise is something new for your loved one, talk with your doctor first before starting a program. Their physician will know what level of activity is safe for their personal health condition.
When it comes to heart attacks, whether they are silent or not, the best cure is always prevention. When that’s not possible, take the time and care to evaluate non-traditional symptoms and have your loved one checked by a doctor as soon as possible. If you have any stories or advice concerning family caregiving for someone who suffered from a silent heart attack that you’d like to share we would love to hear from you in the comments below.