Chest pain is one of the alarm signals of a heart attack which can last a few minutes or longer. Typically, the pain feels like a heavy weight on the chest or like squeezing in the chest. However, there can be more subtle symptoms which could indicate a silent heart attack. What are the main differences between the two?
A silent heart attack is a heart attack that has few, if any, symptoms or has symptoms you don’t recognise as a sign of a heart attack.
A person might not have chest pain or shortness of breath, which are typically associated with a heart attack.
Most people don’t realise that they could have a heart attack without even knowing it.
Although these are commonly referred to as “silent” heart attacks, a more accurate term may be “unrecognised” heart attack.
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Some people do have symptoms, so in that sense, their heart attack is not silent, said Dr David Morrow, director of the cardiac intensive care unit at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
He continued: “They just don’t recognise the sensations as coming from their heart.
“They may think it’s just indigestion or muscle pain, when the real cause is actually reduced blood flow to the heart.
“People may also experience other atypical symptoms, such as nausea or excessive sweating during a heart attack.”
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During a heart attack, the duration and intensity of symptoms can vary quite a bit.
In general, there must be 15 to 30 minutes of reduced blood flow to result in a detectable heart attack meaning a part of the heart muscle has become damaged or has died.
But sometimes symptoms come and go, and these are known as stuttering symptoms.
Some people have mild symptoms from a very large heart attack, while others have severe symptoms with a small heart attack.