Silent killer

Silent killer

You'd certainly know if you were having a heart attack,wouldn't you? After all,you would have heard of the symptoms of a heart attack as crushing chest pain or extreme shortness of breath. Not necessarily...

You’d certainly know if you were having a heart attack,wouldn’t you? After all,you would have heard of the symptoms of a heart attack as crushing chest pain or extreme shortness of breath. Not necessarily,says Dr Rahul Patil Interventional Cardiologist,Ruby Hall and Jehangir Hospital.

Mr Rajkumar Kale (Name Changed) was a typical case of a silent heart attack. He had no symptoms whatsoever and there was no need for him to see a doctor. Since he was in his late 50s he went for a cardiac check-up.. That’s when it was first brought to his notice that he had suffered a heart attack and the appropriate test suggested that his heart was weaker than Normal. An angiography shockingly revealed four blockages; two in the main artery and two in minor arteries. He was suggested to have angioplasty for a better quality of life and especially because he had no symptoms when he must have suffered a heart attack.

More than one in five people over the age of 65 who have heart attacks have unrecognized ones,according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

What is a silent heart attack:

Silent heart attacks are those attacks that have no warning symptoms or signs,or may appear with ordinary signs such as: nausea,sweating,headache and dizziness,acidity like symptoms etc. The cause of silent attack like any other heart attack is almost always the progressive narrowing of the heart’s arteries from accumulations of cholesterol deposits. In most instances,this reduction in blood supply generates a protest from the heart — the crushing pain called angina. But in perhaps many of the heart attack victims there may be no previous symptoms of these gradually developing blockages.


Silent heart attacks are the most dangerous ones because people don’t know what’s happening and hence do not consult a doctor. Despite the fact that it offers little or no warning signs,a silent heart attack is still life-threatening. Because these silent heart attacks go undetected,they can’t be treated,to prevent heart muscle damage.

This increases the chance of underlying heart disease becoming more advanced and can cause another more serious heart attack. But with simple awareness,you can do much to reduce the risk of overlooking a silent attack.

Silent heart attacks are common in people older than 65 years,diabetics and women. Though exact numbers aren’t known,many younger people also experience unrecognised heart attacks.

“Unless people start screening themselves for a heart attack,there’s no way to predict who’s likely to have them. Sometimes the first and only symptom of a silent heart attack could be sudden death,” says Dr Rahul Patil

In terms of heart damage,these unrecognized attacks aren’t necessarily less severe than obvious ones. Studies have found that death rates from silent heart attacks were the same as those from non-silent heart attacks.

Being alert

According to Dr Rahul Patil,”If questioned carefully,many patients will recall some vague symptoms,such as indigestion or back pain that they blamed on something else at the time. So as such silent heart attacks are not silent most of the time.”

To reduce the chance of a silent heart attack,you must become more aware of some unexpected symptoms that accompany such an event,advises Dr Rahul Patil

Be especially vigilant of symptoms if you have heart-disease risk factors,such as a family history of heart attack or other heart disease,obesity,inactivity,smoking,diabetes,high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If you have risk factors,you should also talk to your doctor about getting the necessary investigation done which could predict the possibilities of any underlying problems with greater certainty.

How to prevent

* Several studies have shown the ill-effects of tobacco on the heart. Even passive smoking can damage heart health. A good place to begin when it comes to protecting your heart,would be to give up smoking completely. Air pollution also aggravates heart disease and protecting your self from such atmospheric pollution is an important step.

* Stress levels which are extremely high in cities such as Pune need to be combated. Regular practice of yoga and pranayam and many other stress bursting methods will help to reduce the stress.

* Binging on foods that are high in saturated fats leads to increased cholesterol levels,which in turn harms the heart. Try to cut down on your intake of fat by giving those fried foods a miss. Instead,switch to foods rich in fiber such as porridge,beans,lentils,pulses,nuts,fruits,vegetables etc,as they can help lower your cholesterol

* Regular exercise also has a beneficial effect on the heart,which is probably the most effective way to prevent heart attacks.


* After the age on 35,it is necessary to go in for an ECG,stress test,lipid profile,sugar tests at least once in two years and more frequently depending on your risk factor profile.