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‘Silent’ heart attacks: doctors call for more awareness

A silent attack is almost symptomless and occurs without any of the chest pain normally associated with a heart attack.

What started as a regular October night for 65-year-old diabetic Mahesh Patil (name changed), gradually turned out to be one of his worst nightmares. The father of a city-based cardiologist, Patil experienced slight giddiness with no chest pain. He accounted the slight sweating to the heat of the month of October.

However, the cardiologist did not take a chance and got him admitted where they realised that he had suffered a massive heart attack that night.

Says the cardiologist, “My father was absolutely fine in the day and just started feeling giddy. He only realised he was mildly sweating when I pointed it out to him. Being a cardiologist, I heard the warning bells and immediately decided to conduct an ECG. Upon comparison with his previous ECG, I realised the severity of the situation and admitted him to the hospital. More often that not, diabetic patients and their families rarely recognise the symptoms of a heart attack. Any pain from the jaw to the umbilical cord could be the sign of a cardiovascular infarction,” said the cardiologist, preferring anonymity.

A silent attack is almost symptomless and occurs without any of the chest pain normally associated with a heart attack. With the rising number of diabetics in India, most cases are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. The nerve damage linked to their condition can prevent warning signals being transmitted in the usual way. This in turn can lead to a delay in seeking treatment and can result in damage to the blood vessels as well as heart muscles that makes this silent heart attack more lethal, said Dr Ashish Banerji, director (medical services) and COO, Ruby Hall Clinic, Wanowrie.

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He pointed out that diabetes can be debilitating for patients and costly for healthcare. By 2020, at least 25 per cent of the adult population will be suffering from this illness. The most common myth associated with a heart attack is the movie-like ‘clutching of the chest’, but it may also be pain radiating to the arm, nausea, sweating, or shortness of breath specially in the case of diabetics. Few people know about this type of ‘silent’ heart attack, characterised by a lack of recognisable symptoms, Banerji added.

First published on: 23-10-2015 at 01:05:03 am
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