Unexpected symptoms of a 'silent' heart attack that everyone needs to be aware of

There are many different symptoms that can indicate a heart attack, but it can also be a "silent" heart attack. 

This heart attack has symptoms that most people would likely associate with the flu or a stomach bug according to doctors.

According to research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is possible to suffer a ‘silent’ heart attack. This heart attack causes little or no symptoms.

For the study, the researchers recruited over 1,800 people who were 45 and older and were free of heart disease. Their hearts were then scanned 10 years later.

It was discovered that 8% of the participants showed evidence of scarring or damaged tissue on their hearts. The scarring had mostly gone unrecognized and uncared for, and nearly half looked typical of a heart attack. 

That means those people may have experienced a heart attack without even knowing it. The study’s author was David Bluemke, MD, Ph.D., a director of radiology and imaging sciences at the NIH Clinical Center.

The strange symptoms of a silent heart attack may include mild chest pain, nausea, vomiting, unexplained fatigue, heartburn, shortness of breath, or discomfort in the neck or jaw.

A silent heart attack may feel a lot like a stomach bug, the flu or indigestion. Unlike those illnesses and ailments, however, even a mild heart attack can leave scar tissue on your heart.

Scarring could mess with the electrical current in your heart, causing abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmia said Bluemke. When that happens, your heart could beat too quickly, leaving it unable to pump blood efficiently.

This can then lead to a sudden cardiac arrest and your heart would suddenly stop working. It’s best to always closely monitor your symptoms when you don't feel 100%. 

For younger and healthier people, the chances of these symptoms being a heart attack were very low according to Bluemke. But if you're over 50 or 40+ with a strong family history of heart disease, you should head to your doctor as soon as possible if your symptoms persist longer than 20 minutes or seem to worsen with activity.

Even if you have other risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking, you should be alert. If you experience any strange symptoms don't wait to see if they clear up, go to your doctor.

Even though you're not having symptoms, it's a good idea to see a doctor for an annual physical, too. That's because an unrecognized heart attack isn't the only thing that can scar the organ.

Things like chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking can also damage the heart. Around 70% of people with unrecognized heart disease who died of a sudden cardiac death actually showed prior scarring on their hearts, a previous study found.

You should also ask your doctor for a CT calcium score or CT angiogram test, advised Bluemke. These can detect plaque buildup at a very early stage.

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