Ask a doctor: Seven things you wanted to know about silent heart attacks
by Julian Tan
ABOUT 25% of ‘normal’ heart attacks are silent and don’t show the usual symptoms of chest pain and breathlessness. Who’s more likely to experience a silent heart attack, how can we identify one when it occurs and what can we do to prevent one from happening in the first place? We ask Dr Julian Tan, an interventional cardiologist practising at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore, your questions about silent heart attacks.
If the symptoms of a silent heart attack are so subtle, how can we tell that we are having one before it’s too late? The classical signs of a heart attack are central, crushing chest pain with breathlessness. However, there are more subtle signs of a heart attack: profuse sweating, stomach “ache”, tooth or jaw ache, left arm “numbness”, sense of impending doom/anxiety attack.
Are some people more prone to getting silent heart attacks than others? People with diabetes are notoriously known to have heart attacks without the classical chest pain symptoms. This is because diabetic patients have more serious heart blockages, which are more extensive (diffuse), more hardened vessels (calcified). Also, diabetics have impaired nerve endings, so they may not feel the pain of a heart attack, hence the term, silent heart attack.……
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