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Doctor shows information to older female patient

Silent Heart Attacks Need to be Taken Seriously

By Derek Robinson, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

Silent heart attacks account for 45% of all heart attacks and are mistaken for less serious problems, increasing the risk of death. Don’t be one of those people who waits too long before getting help. February is Heart Month and a good time to learn the signs and commit to taking them seriously.

What is a silent heart attack?

These types of heart attacks are described as "silent" because they may not feel like a heart attack. There may be no extreme chest pain and pressure. No stabbing jaw, neck or arm pain. No overwhelming shortness of breath, dizziness or sweating.

Symptoms can pass quickly and feel mild, but silent heart attacks damage your heart and can lead to life-threatening problems. Silent signs may include fatigue or an ache, a mild pain in the throat or in the center of the chest.

The symptoms can be written off as indigestion or muscle pain, which are easy to ignore. But a silent heart attack can be just as dangerous as any heart attack.

Let your doctor know if you think you may be having symptoms. You can decide together if you need to have testing or see a heart specialist.

What can you do?

Most importantly, take it seriously. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. The best ways to protect yourself are awareness and prevention. To lower your risk, know the signs of a heart attack. Keep your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range and talk to your doctor about those numbers and whether medication is needed. Don’t smoke or use tobacco, limit alcohol and try to exercise most days of the week.

Visit our Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure web page for information. 

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own best medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the best course of treatment. 

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association