Global Health Asia-Pacific May 2022 May 2022 - Page 10

You Ask , They Answer

Q

: What are silent heart attacks and how do they differ from other types of heart attacks ?

A

: Silent heart attacks are those that occur unnoticed either because there were minimal symptoms or none whatsoever or they showed none of the usual symptoms of chest pain . They are , therefore , undiagnosed until much later , often detected on an ECG , or electrocardiogram , during routine medical examination . The impact of a heart attack is the same , however , regardless of whether it occurs with or without any symptoms and can lead to heart failure later in life .

Q

: How common are silent heart attacks and why are women more susceptible ?

A

: According to studies , the incidence of silent heart attacks varies among different populations and can range between 20-50 percent of all heart attacks . Silent heart attacks affect both men and women but may be more frequent in women as they tend not to experience chest pain during heart attacks but rather may have symptoms such as breathlessness , tiredness , lethargy , dizziness , back ache , or stomach ache , which can often be mild and therefore easily dismissed .

Q

: How do patients know they are having , or have had , a silent heart attack ?

A

: Anyone with any unexplained discomfort or symptoms should seek medical evaluation to avoid an upcoming heart attack or detect one that may have gone unnoticed . Those with any of the risk factors for heart disease , such as diabetes , hypertension , high cholesterol levels , smoking ,
overweight / obesity , menopause , or a family history of heart disease , should undergo regular medical check-ups to get these risk factors under control . Doing so can prevent or , at the very least , lower the risk for a heart attack . Medical examination with an ECG can also detect any silent heart attack that may have occurred in the past , so that treatment can be initiated .

Q

: What ’ s the treatment for silent heart attacks ?

A

: The treatment is as for any heart attacks which are managed with medications and / or coronary angioplasty . Cardiac rehabilitation which includes education on healthy lifestyle habits and exercise is also recommended . It is also important to control and treat the risk factors mentioned above .

Q

: What ’ s the prognosis and how can patients take care of themselves after a silent heart attack ?

A

: With appropriate and timely treatment , one can avoid unwanted long-term complications , such as recurrent heart attacks and heart failure . It is important to adhere to medical advice and medications prescribed . Lifestyle modifications , such as moderate exercise , healthy food choices , and smoking cessation , are also very important in reducing the risk of another heart attack .
Dr Emily Tan
Dr Emily Tan is the Clinical Director of Women Health at Institut Jantung Negara in Kuala Lumpur .
8 MAY 2022 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com