Did you know? People can have a heart attack and not even know it happened.

It is called a Silent Heart attack or a silent myocardial infarction (SMI), which is said to account for nearly 50% to 80% of all heart attacks.

A heart attack is termed as ‘silent’ when it occurs with mild to no symptoms or signs that can easily be ignored or mistaken for other illnesses.

This takes place when your heart does not receive sufficient oxygen. In light of a plaque formation in your arteries or other damage caused due to high blood pressure, the blood flow can be partly or completely cut off, leading to a heart attack.

Since silent heart attacks can go unnoticed, there could be more damage than you can imagine, which is why it is important to note all the early signs of a heart attack, so as to receive the necessary treatments.

1. Chest pain and discomfort

You may have chest pain for several reasons. However, chest pain and discomfort can be a warning sign of heart attack. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The health agency describes the feeling as uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.

2. Gastrointestinal issues including nausea and heartburn

Experts believe gastrointestinal problems such as stomach pain, indigestion, heartburn and nausea can be an early sign of a heart attack. The stomach pain can arise in the middle of the upper abdomen and usually feels heavy rather than sharp or stabbing. Such pain could linger on for more than a few minutes.

3. Dizziness or lightheadedness

From overexposure to heat to stress to eye, neck or back strain, a lot of factors can lead to dizziness or lightheadedness. However, feeling dizzy can also be an early warning sign of heart attack, especially in women. This symptom may also appear with cold sweats, chest tightness or shortness of breath and some people may even faint or lose consciousness, which is when one must call for medical assistance immediately.

4. Pain that spreads to other parts of the body including arm and jaw

Warning signs of a heart attack are not just limited to certain parts of the body rather can spread and radiate throughout the body.

A classic heart attack sign is pain that spreads to the arm, especially in the left side of the body. It usually starts from the chest and moves outward towards the arm and the jaw. Other pain areas include neck, back and the stomach.

If you have these symptoms, what you should do immediately

In light of any one or more symptoms of heart attack, contact your nearest hospital asking for immediate medical attention.

In case a person suffers from a heart attack and finds it difficult to breathe, begin a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to maintain or restore the blood flow in the body. According to the experts at MayoClinic, CPR involves chest compressions (100 – 120 per minute).