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Silent Heart Attack


A silent heart attack is one in which a person does not feel typical symptoms of a heart attack, such as:

  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or one or both shoulders or arms.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

This type of heart attack is usually not detected unless there are symptoms of another condition, such as heart failure, at the same time. It may not be discovered until later, during a routine physical exam.

A silent heart attack may occur when the nerves in the heart have been damaged by high blood sugar due to diabetes. Because the heart attack does not cause symptoms, it is ignored or not noticed and often causes more damage to the heart. In a person with diabetes, the only signs of a heart attack may be a rising blood sugar level and weakness that does not go away after eating sugar.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerBarrie J. Hurwitz, MD - Neurology
Last RevisedApril 12, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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