Killing silently

The heart attack is a frightful expression and is correctly perceived as an extremely ominous condition. Almost always, heart attacks are life-threatening and require immediate attention. But the usual form of heart attack that we know of is not the only presentation of this deadly disease. Pain and abundant symptoms, along with profuse perspiration is not the only presentation of the heart attack. It is also known that heart attacks may occur silently without any symptoms. These silent heart attacks are the unnoticed, appropriate and timely management of these patients is not pursued. This increases the odds of underlying heart disease to intensify and cause irretrievable damage to the heart and body.

Silent Heart Attack

It was once observed that at least, one in five individuals over the age of 65 years with recognized heart attack had actually suffered a silent heart attack. The key to recovering from a heart attack is the swiftness with which the patient receives treatment. In the case of a silent heart attack, since the patient is unaware of the infarction, valuable time is wasted and the heart becomes permanently damaged. Silent heart attacks may strike anyone, but people most likely to experience them are those who had a prior heart attack, individuals who have diabetes and elderly patients with high blood pressure. The patient is actually having a heart attack, the mechanism is same, with the same consequences, but the patient does not feel anything and may never know he had suffered from one either. These so-called “silent” heart attacks are of two types. One is truly silent without any symptoms and the other has sufficiently mild symptoms that the patient dismisses them as indigestion or heartburn without resorting to proper evaluation. In a recently published study, it was observed patients who had suffered a silent heart attack had a much higher risk of death that over a two-year follow-up, compared to patients with did not suffer from any such event. It was also observed that these attacks occur much more common than believed and carry a high risk of premature death. The study performed at Duke University Medical Center, United States evaluated patients with coronary artery disease but without any previous evidence of heart attack. The researchers found out that as many 35 per cents of such patients had evidence of silent heart attacks on delayed enhancement, cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging.

Vigilance is Beneficial

Being vigilant is perhaps the best way to save one self from these attacks. It is always good to know of one’s coronary risk score. Regular ECG, stress test, Holter monitoring, echocardiography, blood sugar and blood pressure monitoring and serum cholesterol estimations, with regular consultations with your cardiologist, are simple ways to be watchful. One should also be careful regarding vague symptoms such as uncomfortable heartburn, indigestion or a backache. For those who are at high-risk score due to positive family history, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, sedentary and stressful lifestyle or smoking should be extra vigilant. It must also be remembered that the best way to fend off these attacks is a healthy lifestyle with heart-healthy diet and regular exercise.

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