ABC Medical Center > Cardiology > What is a silent heart attack?

What is a silent heart attack?

20 December 2022

Mujer con síntomas del pre infarto silencioso se agarra del corazón

The silent heart attack, also known as silent ischemia, is an atypical heart attack, due to the sudden obstruction of one of the arteries of the heart, triggering the death of its cells.

How is a silent heart attack?

In most cases, pain is caused by the momentary interruption of blood flow to the heart, known as angina. But there are cases where this pain does not occur, known as a silent heart attack.

Generally, the risk factors for a silent heart attack are the same as for a symptomatic heart attack, for example:

  • Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse
  • Family history of heart problems
  • Previous heart attacks
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Age (more than 45 years in men and 55 in women)
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Little exercise in daily life

Many of the patients who suffered a silent heart attack discover it later, even years, during a routine electrocardiogram, for example.

Silent heart attack symptoms, how to recognize them?

The reality is that very few people do not have any symptoms during a silent heart attack, but they can be mild or can be confused with other types of health problems.
Normally what one should pay attention to is:

  • Exhaustion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the back or arms, similar to a sprain or strain
  • Mild throat or chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • General feeling of discomfort
  • Sweating

There is currently no test to determine the potential for a silent heart attack. But depending on your risk factors, the doctor may treat them seeking to reduce the chances of suffering a silent heart attack.

An electrocardiogram or cardiac ultrasound is the only way to identify a silent heart attack.

Having suffered a silent heart attack increases the patient’s risk of subsequently suffering another heart attack, which can be fatal, or can increase complications such as stroke, and arrhythmias, among others.

Another element to consider is the relationship between a silent heart attack and diabetes because people with diabetes may have nervous system problems that interfere with other pain signals, known as neuropathies, resulting in a silent heart attack.

Normally, a silent heart attack can not only deceive the patient but even receive an incorrect diagnosis.

One way to quickly identify any of these symptoms is that heart problems are not postural, so if you manipulate the body and the symptoms do not change, you should go to the doctor for an immediate and timely assessment.

In ABC Medical Center’s Cardiovascular Center, you will find emergency care in case of suffering an Acute Myocardial Infarction – AMI Code, or in case you suspect that you are suffering from a silent heart attack. Contact us!


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    Ricardo Ostos

    Ricardo Ostos

    Content Creator

    Ricardo can convey complex medical information in an accessible and friendly way so that all of our patients can understand and benefit from it. In addition, he has an empathetic approach, offering information and practical advice that really makes a difference in people's lives. #lifebringsustogether.

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