ZocdocAnswersIs it possible for a heart attack to go unnoticed?

Question

Is it possible for a heart attack to go unnoticed?

Out of curiosity, can a person have a heart attack and never realize it. My mother complained of severe chest pains a couple of days ago. She didn?t go to the doctor and the chest pains went away. Could this be more serious?

Answer

This is an important question to discuss with your mom's primary care physician. Unfortunately, some people do have small heart attacks that go unnoticed. There are many examples of people that just hate hospitals and doctors so much that they won't come to an emergency department even if they have severe chest pain. Others live too far away. Some people with conditions such as diabetes might have symptoms that are not "classic" or typical of a heart attack. For example, some people experience abdominal pain or nausea and this is the sign of a heart attack. The good news is that most of the time, chest pain is not a heart attack. Other conditions such as heart burn (acid reflux) and arthritis of the sternum can cause chest pain. However, because chest pain can be a sign of dangerous things, you should always seek immediate care whenever it develops. You should have your mom schedule an appointment with her primary care physician. He or she will listen to the story about the chest pain and probably know from that if it could have been angina (the pain associated with a heart attack) or not. Her doctor will likely also order an EKG to look for signs of previous heart attacks. Finally, your mom might need to have an exercise stress test to make sure her heart is fine.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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