Silent Heart Attack

Silent Heart Attack: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

A silent heart attack as the name suggests can creep on you without notice. You do not experience any visible symptoms that make you take notice. So, you can detect the type of heart attack only during the routine examination. Your doctor finds it on the electrocardiogram. It may show evidence of the prior heart attack (myocardial infarction). If you have no history of a heart attack, then it becomes more difficult to record the issue. So, usually, it goes undetected. In many cases, people discover the problem when they see a doctor for unrelated issues.

A heart attack is something serious. You can never ignore the damage it can cause to your body. With the silent type of attack, you fail to get treatment. So, when your doctor makes the diagnosis, you become surprised. Irrespective of the visible symptoms, heart attack needs your attention. So, what can you do? You need to keep up regular health checkups. You also need to get in sync with your body. Hence, you can become aware of the subtle change. When you suspect an issue, take medical aid. Read ahead to know about the silent killer that has the power to wreck your life.

What Is Silent Heart Attack?

silent heart attack Many people relate heart attack with great dramatics. Even in movies, the actors suffering heart attacks clutch their chest and fall down. So, we often link the problem with severe discomfort and pain. In most of the cases, it is true. The heart attack or myocardial infarction is the condition occurring due to blood vessel blocks. The coronary arteries can rupture to the atherosclerotic plaque. It causes a blood clot to form in the artery. So, it blocks the blood flow into the heart muscle. The deprivation of oxygen (present in the blood) can result in alarming symptoms. You can experience chest pain and other signs. Without relieving the block, your heart muscle has chances of dying. Therefore, the death of the heart muscle portion can trigger a heart attack.

In most cases, the symptoms developed by the coronary artery can make you seek medical. The alarming signs urge you to take medical assistance. But, some people do not suffer any agonizing pain or discomfort. So, you never feel the compulsion to see a doctor immediately. Unfortunately, it leads to damage to heart muscles. Around 20% of the total heart attacks cases go undetected. So, you may never know you suffered cardiac arrest. It results in not getting the rapid therapy that can salvage the heart damage to an extent. It puts you in danger of getting can fatal attack with life-threatening results.

Symptoms Of Silent Heart Attack

The heart attack has a visible sign that indicates that something is really wrong with you. So, with the typical heart attack you can experience the following:

  • Severe Chest Pain
  • Oppressive Chest Discomfort
  • Discomfort In Several Body Parts (Neck, Back, or Shoulders)
  • Profuse Sweating
  • Shortness Of Breath

You can never ignore the signs as it causes you severe distress. The typical heart attacks have visible symptoms. So, you can take steps to get proper treatment. But, unlike the regular heart attacks, the silent version has no visible signs. The patients never experience any symptoms associated with the problems. But, you can see some signs that you may interpret wrongly.

  • Breaking out in cold sweat for no apparent reason
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Having clammy hands
  • Heartburn
  • Feeling tired without any cause
  • Pain in Jaw
  • Upset stomach
  • Agony in left arm or neck

The symptoms may make you think about the minor problem. So, you tend to ignore it. But, you can suffer after effects due to the damage from the attack. Hence, the symptoms can include:

What Are The Reasons Behind Silent Heart Attack?

During the silent attack, you may never know the problem. A good minority of people experience the problem. They detect it only during a routine checkup. The blocking of a coronary artery by a blood clot or damaging of heart muscles leads to the silent attack. So, you can experience a heart attack with no signs at all. But, what actually causes the attack without any visible symptoms? It is a question that can daunt you. Several reasons result in the condition. Read ahead to know about it in detail:

High Pain Thresholds

Some people may have a high tolerance for pain. Such people can tolerate high levels of pain compared to others. They do not notice the symptoms, which many people can never ignore. People having high tolerance levels never feel chest pain or distress.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions like kidney disease or diabetes can affect your nerves. The medical condition can affect your nerves adversely. It results in the inability of the nerve to carry the pain impulses. Therefore, it can result in the blunting of the symptoms of the heart attack. People suffering from such problems cannot feel the angina signs. It is due to the problem known as Neuropathy. So, the issue can lead to damage to the nerves leading to major body parts. The heart, blood vessels, and bladder get affected by it. When it happens, you fail to receive the warning signs. Hence, you never feel the discomfort or pain associated with the heart attack.

You can monitor the changes in your body to know if you have neuropathy. The most common signs associated with is the tingling, weakness or numbness in the hands as well as feet. But, you can also look for other signs:

  • Feeling dizzy or fainting sensation when you make a sudden movement (like standing)
  • Have trouble performing limited physical exercise
  • Experience low sex drive
  • Profuse sweating or no sweating at all
  • Have issue while urinating
  • The trouble with food digestion (upset stomach or bloating)

The most common cause leading to neuropathy is diabetes. So, controlling diabetes can prevent the problem.

Atypical Symptoms

In some people, cardiac ischemia triggers atypical signs. So, instead of the actual signs like the weakness or shortness of breath, they never suffer any signs. The condition occurs mostly in women. Hence, women experiencing the attack can only suffer from shortness of breath instead of pain.

Ignoring The Symptoms

Some people ignore the signs saying it as acidity or other issues. The non-dramatic nature of the signs makes you brush off the signs. Most likely you may ignore it saying it as heartburn, cold or the food you had. Unless you have severe pain, you never feel the need to contact the doctor.

Age Or Sex

Age is a very important factor associated with a silent heart attack. As you get older, your chances of getting heart attack of silent type increases. The chances of getting the problem as you age (above 75). Compared to men, the problem affects women. So, the sex of the person also plays a significant role in getting the problem.

So, among 5 people affected by a heart attack, 1 can experience the silent type of attack. Many go undetected until the doctor discovers it.

Causes Of Silent Heart Attack

The root causes of the silent version of the heart attack are similar to the typical ones. So, the main reason for people to encounter the problem are:

Blood Vessel Block

Blood Vessel Block

It is the most common reason leading to the heart attack. The block can interrupt the proper blood flow the heart. At times, it compromises the blood flow to the area of the heart depending entirely on the blood vessel. It can trigger the heart attack.

SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection)

Women are more susceptible to silent heart attacks. SCAD is one of the main reasons triggering it. Women may experience spontaneous tear on the walls of the blood vessels. So, it can cause disruption in the blood flow. It can lead to the heart attack of the silent type.

Coronary Vasospasm

It is the condition resulting in the temporary spasm of the coronary artery. So, the sudden spasm can lead to impairment of the blood flow. The problem can trigger a heart attack.

Microvascular Disease

Microvascular Disease

Certain diseases affecting the small blood vessels can impair their functions. One of the problems is the microvascular diseases. It affects the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. Other mechanisms can also trigger the issue. Unfortunately, the information scarcity makes it difficult to identify it properly. Therefore, it becomes difficult to treat the condition.

Risks Of Silent Heart Attack

Coronary artery disease can lead to death. It is a risky problem that makes it dangerous. Irrespective of the type of heart attack, it can lead to losing your life. You may have noticed people saying someone died suddenly. The sudden death is associated with the silent heart attack. You may never know what hit you. So, before you can get the medical assistance you can succumb to death. Some people who may have no history of heart disease can experience sudden death. But, it is noted that people who are at risk of getting the problem have underlying coronary artery disease. So, people may experience several episodes of the silent attack before the fatal cardiac arrest.

Unlike people who have suffered a heart attack, individuals who have silent attacks fair worse. They may appear normal but have bad long time prognosis. It is due to the fact that they do not seek treatment. People who have experienced a heart attack take necessary precautions to avoid the issue. The prompt medical aid provides them better prognosis compared to the silent attacks. As the silent attack goes undetected, the chance of getting treatment reduces. So, people continue with their regular lifestyle. It increases the chance of getting the attacks again. Subsequently, it leads to death.

Diagnosis Of Silent Heart Attack

You may not see any visible signs with the problem. Due to the reason, you never seek medical help immediately. You diagnose the problem only after you suffer the damage. You can experience the after signs. But, only during the routine checkup, your doctor can detect the issue. The silent attacks get detected due to the following:



An electrocardiogram is a common diagnostic tool that can detect the problem. After you suffer the problem, it can weaken your heart. The electrical signals in your heart can indicate the prior heart issues.

Blood Tests

Blood tests can indicate prior heart attacks. When you suffer heart attacks, your body releases certain proteins. Measuring the specific protein levels can shed light on the issue. If your doctor suspects a silent heart attack, he may order for the blood tests.


Photo By: BruceBlaus/ CC BY

After the doctor detects the problem, he may order an echocardiogram. It provides the ultrasound imaging of the heart. So, the electrocardiogram can now visualize the weakened heart. It can shed light on the degree of damage experienced by your heart after the silent attack.

Treatment And Prevention

After the diagnosis establishes the silent heart attack, you need to maintain caution. The effective method to treat it is to prevent it from happening again. So, you need to follow the points discussed below. It will avoid the issue from affecting you again.

Healthy Diet

Healthy Diet

If you have encountered a heart attack of the silent type, it means you need to change your diet. Your diet is putting you at risk of getting the heart problem. So, you have to opt for healthy foods. Avoiding the food rich in fats and cholesterol can benefit your health. Therefore, stop consuming more processed food, canned food, or fast foods. Include more fruits, vegetables, and grains in your diet. It will keep your cholesterol levels low. You also need to limit your salt intake. The excess sodium can increase your blood pressure. Following a healthy and nutritious diet can enhance your health.

Active Lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle can put you at risk of several diseases. Therefore, you need to include physical activity in your daily life. The active lifestyle can keep you fit. So, it prevents the lifestyle diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol from affecting you. Just spend 30 minutes daily to workout. It can bring a huge transformation in your life.

Healthy Weight

The BMI (Body Mass Index) sheds light on the healthy weight you need to have according to your height. If you are overweight, then you are at risk of getting diseases like diabetes, cholesterol, and pressure. It enhances your risk of getting heart diseases. Therefore, try to lose weight. Maintain the BMI to keep the unwanted health problems from creating complications.

Quit Smoking

Quit Smoking

Smoking is an addictive habit that causes great harm to your heart. It makes you susceptible to lung cancers and heart diseases. The addictive nature of the nicotine in the tobacco makes it difficult to quit the bad habit. But, it can trigger several health issues like cancer in different organs, stroke, heart problems, etc.

Consume Alcohol In Moderation

Alcohol in moderation cannot affect your health. But, excess alcohol consumption can trigger health problems. Therefore, consuming it within the limits can prevent any adverse effects on your health.

Control Underlying Health Conditions

Health conditions like diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol needs constant monitoring. Controlling it with medication, diet, and physical activity can prevent complications.

Identifying The Risk

Some people are more at risk of getting heart disease compared to others. So, when you visit your doctor, an assessment of the pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes levels. People with high levels of pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels can develop the risk of silent heart attacks. Women with history pre-eclampsia need to schedule doctor’s visit. They are more at risk of heart problems.

Get Checkup Regularly

People who have suffered heart attacks or have heart problems need to get regular checkups. The cardiologist who specializes in heart-related problems can offer guidance. With regular care, medication, proper diet, and exercise, patients can reduce the risk. So, the cardiologist can offer pointers. You need to follow it religiously to avoid the complications. Getting check-ups regularly can detect issues faster. Therefore, it aids in getting a prompt treatment that will avoid complications.


You need to understand that the silent heart attack is a serious condition with fatal complications. It has the potential to damage your heart. It can leave lasting scars after the episode. So, it can change the way your heart works. The problem with the issue is you never know you had it. So, getting treatment becomes impossible. Without proper care, your chances of suffering a major cardiac arrest increases. It increases your odds of getting other heart-related problem like heart failure. Therefore, you need to focus on your body more. Getting regular checkups and following an active lifestyle can help you overcome the problem with ease.

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