Heart attack symptoms can feel ‘mild or brief’ – 80% of people unaware

Despite popular depictions, heart attacks do not always strike with a big bang. The subtler types are commonly referred to as “silent heart attacks”. A silent heart attack, also known as a silent myocardial infarction (SMI), is said to account for 45 percent of heart attacks and strike men more than women.

They are described as “silent” because when they occur, their symptoms lack the intensity of a classic heart attack, such as extreme chest pain and pressure; stabbing pain in the arm, neck, or jaw; sudden shortness of breath; sweating, and dizziness.

“SMI symptoms can feel so mild, and be so brief, they often get confused for regular discomfort or another less serious problem, and thus men ignore them,” said Doctor Jorge Plutzky, director of the vascular disease prevention program at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

For instance, men may feel fatigue or physical discomfort and chalk it up to overwork, poor sleep, or some general age-related ache or pain.

Other typical symptoms like mild pain in the throat or chest can be confused with gastric reflux, indigestion, and heartburn.

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According to Harvard Health, SMI and regular heart attacks share the same risk factors: smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes.

They can be just as dangerous, too.

“SMI often leaves scarring and damage to the heart, which, combined with the fact that many people who have an SMI don’t seek immediate care, can further raise a person’s risk of a second and potentially more harmful heart attack,” warned Doctor Plutzky.

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