Heart attacks usually get manifested through symptoms like excruciating pain in the heart, stabbing pain in the arms, breathlessness, dizziness, fatigue, and confusion amongst others. In severe cases, there might also be other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, back pain, etc. Now we have discussed heart attacks briefly, but what is a silent ischemia?
What is silent ischemia?
Also referred to as silent heart attack or silent myocardial infarction (SMI), silent ischemia is called so because its symptoms are often not felt at all. Sometimes, the symptoms may not be as intense as a heart attack. This type of heart attack accounts for 45% of the total incidents of heart attacks. It is more common in men than in women.
According to Dr. Jorge Plutzky, Director of the program studying the preventive measures of vascular disease at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “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”.
For example, people may feel certain mild symptoms like dizziness or tiredness, which they often attribute to minor health conditions like indigestion, fever, gastroesophageal disorder (GERD) and associated heartburn. The almost non-existent symptoms of silent ischemia can also be misinterpreted as a lack of sufficient sleep and/or over-exertion at work.
At times, silent angina or chest pain or discomfort may occur in the central area, not on the left side – where the heart is located. As Dr. Plutzky enlightens us, “People can even feel completely normal during an SMI and afterward too, which further adds to the chance of missing the warning signs.”
What are the silent myocardial ischemia symptoms?
Below are the common silent myocardial ischemia symptoms, in case they can be felt.
- Uncomfortable or squeezing pain, or discomfort in the center of the chest as opposed to the left side, where the heart is located. This symptom may last for several minutes before subsiding or may be recurrent.
- Discomfort in various upper-body parts such as the the jaw, arms (one or both), the neck, the back, or the stomach.
- Shortness of breath along with pain or discomfort in the chest.
- Excessive perspiration, cold sweats, dizziness, and nausea.
What are the causes of silent ischemia?
Silent ischemia is not very different from a regular heart attack, the only glaring difference being in the intensity of manifestation of symptoms. Hence, their causes are also the same. Like a regular heart attack, a silent ischemia also happens as a result of blockages in the coronary arteries due to plaque build-up. The heart specialises in overseeing the vital task of supplying blood to every cell in the human body. It completes this process within a minute. So, you can well imagine the pumping power that the heart needs to maintain to be able to ensure that. Even the slightest of blockages due to fat built-up act as a barrier in ensuring the smooth flow of blood.