Have you ever felt a little short of breath, dizzy or simply not right? Astonishing new figures reveal that 6% of people may have suffered heart attacks without realising.
So-called “silent” heart attacks are a new phenomena that doctors are only beginning to understand. Here are the warning signs to look out for, and how to know if you’ve already been impacted.
According to Dr Travis Stork from Los Angeles, 1 in 16 people could have suffered heart attacks without realising. The tell-tale sign of this is scarring across heart muscles.
Silent heart attacks impact women more than men. In men, heart attacks typically mean that plaque “ruptures” along the arteries. This has an explosive impact that men are quick to recognise.
In women though, oestrogen can lower the risk of plaque ruptures. As a result, heart attacks can sometimes be a less “explosive” event.
“When the plaque doesn’t explode, and rather builds up slowly over time, it causes more… subtle symptoms”, explains Dr Suzanne Steinbaum from New York.
Therefore, there are certain signs women should look out for. Unexplained muscular pressure, tingling sensations, chest pain, stiffness, nausea and shortness of breath can signal a “silent” heart attack.
71% of women who have previously suffered heart attacks reported “unusual exhaustion” in the weeks before, whilst 50% had trouble sleeping prior to their attack.
Dr Stork believes that women are quick to shrug off physical discomforts, but should think twice before dismissing their health needs. “It gets back to intuition, to not ignoring (symptoms)”, he explained.
“When I hear ‘I just don’t feel right,’ that makes me instantly worried”, Dr Stork adds. “Women often worry that they (are over-reacting) by coming to the ER”.
A heart attack means that cells are actually dying, due to a lack of blood-flow into the impacted heart muscles.
“Poor blood flow means decreased oxygen, and when you’re not getting enough oxygen to any muscle, that muscle eventually starts dying”, explains Dr Stork.
Heart attacks can last several hours, but irreversible damage can be down after just 20 minutes of poor blood-flow. Therefore, getting to a hospital if you notice these warning signs could be critical.
Know the signs to watch out for, and if you’re ever in doubt seek medical attention. It’s surely better to be safe than sorry when it comes to silent heart attacks.
Here is a dramatised (but no less informative) public health video about heart attacks: