New Delhi: As per studies, a silent heart attack is often symptomless but the risk of a person dying is the same as that during a symptomatic heart attack.
Though silent heart attacks strike men more often than women, the latter are equally at risk. About 45% of all heart attacks are silent, according to a research. On World Heart Day, awareness needs to be raised on this condition and that it becomes apparent only during a chance electrogram indicating damage to heart muscles.
Silent heart attacks occur when blood flow to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. Statistics indicate that about 25% of all heart attacks occur in people below the age of 40 years. The classic symptoms of a silent heart attack such as fatigue or physical discomfort, poor sleep, and age-related ache or pain are often confused as gastric reflux, indigestion, and heartburn.
Speaking about this, Dr Suman Bhandari, Director & HOD – Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Noida, said, “The outcome of a silent heart attack is as bad as one whose symptoms are detected. However, there is a lack of knowledge about these signs, which can delay timely diagnosis and treatment. At times, the location of pain can be misdiagnosed. For instance, some people feel a discomfort in the center of the chest as opposed to a sharp pain on the left side, a symptom often associated with heart attack. Many people also feel completely normal during and after a silent heart attack which further increases the probability of missing the warning signs. Recurring silent heart attacks can cause scarring and damage to the heart. In the absence of treatment, this condition multiplies the risk of a second and potentially more harmful heart attack.”
Some risk factors for a silent heart attack include smoking, excess weight, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes.It is a warning sign to address an underlying health issue.
Adding further, Dr Bhandari said, “One of the primary reasons for this condition is blockage in the flow of blood in the coronary arteries due to build-up of plaque. It is important to understand that even subtle symptoms should not be ignored. Being aware of your risk factors and getting evaluated at the right time are key to preventing further complications.”
Among the various treatment options for a silent heart attack are angioplasty (a special tubing with an attached deflated balloon is threaded up to the coronary arteries);artificial heart valve surgery (abnormal or diseased heart valve is replaced with a healthy one);bypass surgery (treats blocked heart arteries by creating new passages for blood to flow to theheart muscle); cardiomyoplasty; and heart transplant (diseased heart is removed and replaced with a donated healthy human heart).Angioplasty or PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention) has benefited millions of patients and is currently the Standard of Care for the disease state. A stent/ wire mesh tube is inserted into the artery to keep it open after angioplasty. Drug-eluting coronary stents can help prevent plaque buildup, promote good blood flow to the heart, and relieve chest pain. A lifestyle that includes adequate physical activity and consumption of heart-healthy food is essential to prevent heart attacks.
Some tips are as follows.
- Consume a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids.The intake of salt, saturated fats, sweets, red meats, and trans fats should be reduced.
- Avoid stress by relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. Stress is a majorcontributing factor for a heart attack and must be avoided.
- Quit smoking. Research indicates that those who smoke less than five cigarettes a day canshow early signs of a heart problem.
- Keep your blood pressure and blood sugar under check. Get regular checkups done and takepreventive measures at an early stage.