Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Silent heart attack: What are the risks?

What is a silent heart attack?

Updated: 06-22-2011

Answer

A silent heart attack is a heart attack that has few, if any, symptoms. You may have never had any symptoms to warn you that you've developed a heart problem, such as chest pain or shortness of breath. Some people later recall their silent heart attack was mistaken for indigestion, nausea, muscle pain, or a bad case of the flu.

The risk factors for having a silent heart attack are the same as having a heart attack with symptoms. The risk factors include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight

Having a silent heart attack puts you at a greater risk of having another heart attack, which could be fatal. Having another heart attack also increases your risk of complications, such as heart failure.

If you wonder if you've had a silent heart attack, talk to your doctor. A review of your symptoms, health history and a physical exam can help your doctor decide if more tests are necessary. The only way to tell if you've had a silent heart attack is to have additional tests, such as an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram or other imaging tests. These tests can reveal changes that signal you've had a heart attack.

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