Heart Attacks Occur in Symptom-Free Patients
Research shows that approximately one-third of people who suffer from heart attacks experience little or no chest pain. Heart attacks vary in intensity and some individuals are symptom-free. While certain types of heart attacks may occur without symptoms, there are several subtle warning signs that may indicate when you might be having a heart attack.
Heart Attacks without Symptoms
Atherosclerosis is one type of heart condition that is generally symptom-free. As plaque builds up within the coronary arteries, the blood flow becomes restricted. This type of obstruction may cause heart damage, even death. In some cases, other heart vessels will help to compensate by expanding and carrying of blood to the heart muscle. A process of collateral circulation may create a network of vessels that enlarge in order to fascilitate blood flow to the heart. Occasionally collateral circulation will occur following a heart attack to assist in the heart’s recovery. The build-up of plaque occurs over time so regular medical exams may help to determine whether or not you could be at risk.
Symptoms Free? Common Signs of a Heart Attack
Many heart patients experience few symptoms before suffering a heart attack. When individuals suffer an attack without warning, they are experiencing a “silent heart attack”. Symptoms of heart conditions differ greatly between individuals and vary in intensity. People who have previously experienced a heart attack may have different symptoms the second time. Therefore, it is helpful to recognize some of the most frequent signals.
- Individuals with diabetes (high blood sugar levels) frequently experience mild symptoms, if any at all.
- Although heart attack symptoms can be sudden and intense, they can also be very mild and may occur over the course of many hours.
- While the most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain, often the sensation is more of discomfort, tightness, and/or a feeling of “fullness”.
- Women tend to experience nausea, vomiting, extended periods of fatigue, and pain in the jaw, back, neck, and shoulders, as well as shortness of breath.
- Heart attack signals may vary in intensity over the course of several hours, sometimes creating only mild discomfort.
- A heart attack may also feel like indigestion or heartburn.
- Discomfort in the upper body, mild (to severe) pain in the back, arm(s), shoulders, back, jaw, neck, and above the navel.
- Shortness of breath may also signal a problem, especially when there has been little or no physical exertion, and when combined with chest discomfort and pain.
- Angina symptoms, which occur in individuals with coronary heart disease, are often similar to the signs of a heart attack, although typically these symptoms occur when a person is involved in physical activities. These symptoms typically last for just a few moments.
- Heavy perspiration, breaking out in a sweat.
- Fatigue (particularly in women) that persists, sometimes over the course of several days.
- Upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting.
- Dizziness, vertigo, and lightheadedness.
Changes in any of the symptoms that you have previously been experiencing may also indicate a problem. While it is possible to experience a silent or symptom-free heart attack, many people do experience early warning signs. Becoming familiar with the symptoms may help to save your life or the life of a loved one.