These Silent Heart Attack Symptoms Are the Most Deadly, New Study Says


You probably assume you'd know if you were having a heart attack, right? You likely imagine you'd feel a sharp pain in your left arm or clutch your chest in agony. But in reality, not all heart attacks are like what you've seen in movies or on TV. In fact, some people may experience "silent" heart attacks, where their symptoms go unrecognized because they aren't in line with the dramatic way we tend to think heart attacks happen. And unfortunately, a new study has found that some of these silent heart attack symptoms are actually the most deadly. Read on to find out what heart attack symptoms are more likely to result in fatalities.

A new study found that atypical heart attack symptoms are the most deadly.

For a new study published May 5 in the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, Danish researchers analyzed the data on heart attack-related calls to a non-emergency medical helpline and an emergency number in Denmark between 2014 and 2018. They found that more than 8,330 heart attacks were diagnosed within 72 hours of a call, but there were discrepancies in how the patients' conditions progressed. According to their findings, heart attack patients with atypical symptoms were more likely to die within 30 days than those who had called with chest pain, regardless of whether they called the emergency or non-emergency number.

These atypical symptoms included breathing problems, extreme exhaustion, and abdominal pain. The rate of those who died after 30 days was only 4.3 percent for people with chest pain but 15.6 percent for those with atypical symptoms, according to the study.

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Around one in four heart attacks appear with atypical symptoms.

The study found that 24 percent of heart attack patients experienced atypical symptoms, with breathing problems being the most common among them. Still, chest pain was the most frequently reported symptom overall at 73 percent.

Some groups are more likely to present with the more unusual symptoms, the researchers found. "Atypical symptoms were most common among older people, especially women, who called a non-emergency helpline for assistance," study author and PhD student Amalie Lykkemark Møller said in a statement.

People with atypical symptoms are less likely to realize they are having a heart attack.

According to the researchers, people with atypical symptoms were much more likely to call the non-emergency helpline over the emergency number. "This suggests that patients were unaware that their symptoms required urgent attention," Møller said.

In terms of non-emergency calls, only three percent of those with chest pain didn't survive while 15 percent of those with atypical symptoms died.

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But they are also less likely to receive emergency care.

The increased levels of mortality among heart attack patients with atypical symptoms may not just be because they themselves don't realize they're experiencing a heart attack, however. According to the study, those with chest pain were significantly more likely to receive emergency care after calling for help than those without. The researchers found that 95 percent of callers with chest pain were sent help after calling the emergency number while only 62 percent of those who had atypical symptoms received emergency dispatch through the emergency number. The contrast between those who called the non-emergency line was even more stark. Among those with chest pain, 76 percent received emergency help while only 17 percent of those with atypical symptoms received the same.

"Taken together, our results show that heart attack patients with chest pain were three times more likely to receive an emergency ambulance than those with other symptoms," Møller said.

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