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Missing signs or symptoms normally unrelated to a heart attack can make it tricky to identify a silent heart attack. However, it still causes damage like any other heart attack.

A heart attack is known as “silent” when it has no symptoms, mild symptoms or symptoms people would not usually connect to a heart attack.

Also known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack means your heart is not receiving oxygen. Usually, a blood clot causes a heart attack by keeping blood from flowing through one of your coronary arteries. Less often, a coronary artery spasm can cut off your blood flow.

Heart attacks can happen when you are asleep or awake and tend to happen when:

  • You just went through something very physically or emotionally stressful
  • You quickly become more physically active
  • You’re physically active outside in the cold.

Some studies estimate that nearly 50 percent to 80 percent of all heart attacks are silent.

A silent heart attack can injure your heart just like a more obvious heart attack that doesn’t allow oxygen to get to part of your heart.

Silent heart attacks are caused when plaque that contains cholesterol collects in your coronary arteries. When a blood clot forms on the plaque, it keeps oxygen-rich blood from getting through to your heart muscle.

However, if you don’t know you are having a heart attack, you may not get the medical help you need to limit the damage. A silent heart attack has been linked to a higher risk of heart failure.

With a silent heart attack, symptoms can make you feel like:

  • You have the flu
  • You have a sore muscle in your chest or upper back
  • You have an ache in your jaw, arms or upper back
  • You are very tired
  • You have indigestion.

Symptoms of a traditional heart attack may include:

  • Chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in your upper body
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea and vomiting. 

People with ischemic heart disease can get chest pain when they’re moving around. This pain stops after a few minutes of rest. You could be having a heart attack if the chest pain doesn’t go away.

Diagnosis of silent heart attacks are given when your GP may find that you have:

  • A fast or uneven pulse
  • Unusual sounds in your lungs. 

Treatment of silent heart attacks are monitored closely in case of any further disruption to the heart.

At the hospital, your healthcare provider will:

  • Monitor your heart
  • Give you oxygen
  • Give you medicine for pain and to break up or prevent blood clots.

As soon as possible, your provider may do a coronary angioplasty to open a blood vessel that got too narrow or clogged.

A stent can be put inside the blood vessel to keep it open so blood can flow through. In some cases, you may need a coronary artery bypass graft to create a way for blood to go around the clogged area.

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