‘Silent’ Heart Attacks: What Black Men Need To Know

New research suggests black and white men may be more likely than women to have a silent heart attack — one that doesn’t trigger symptoms such as chest pain and cold sweats — but women may be more likely to die from a silent heart attack.

The findings, published Monday in the journal Circulation, also showed that blacks may fare worse than whites, although researchers point out the number of blacks in the study may have been too small to be certain.

Researchers analyzed data from about 9,500 U.S. black and white men and women. More than half were women and about 20 percent were black.

Researchers have known that silent heart attacks represent 22 percent to 60 percent of all heart attacks. In the new study, more than 45 percent of heart attacks were silent.

Previous studies in the U.S. have not looked at how they affect different sexes and races, said Elsayed Z. Soliman, M.D., the study’s senior author and director of the Epidemiological Cardiology Research Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Signs and symptoms of a silent heart attack may include mild chest pain, nausea, vomiting, unexplained fatigue, heartburn, shortness of breath, or discomfort in the neck or jaw, he says. That’s right: A silent heart attack may feel a lot like a bout of the stomach bug or the flu or indigestion.

Don’t think that these are harmless — quite the opposite. If you’re over 50, 40+ with a strong family history of heart disease, or have other risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or smoking, you should go see your doctor as soon as possible if your symptoms persist longer than 20 minutes or seem to worsen with activity.

Don’t wait to see if the symptoms clear up.