A silent heart attack happens when the flow of blood is blocked in the coronary arteries by a build-up of plaque. Studies differ, but some suggest that silent heart attacks are more common in women than in men. Ekery points out that women and their physicians may also be more likely to chalk up symptoms of a silent heart attack to anxiety and dismiss them. Still, she says, the risk factors for a silent heart attack are the same as those for a recognized heart attack and include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity, and age.
A silent heart attack can be just as dangerous as its more obvious counterpart, says Ekery. Because the event often leaves scarring and damage to the heart, it puts the person at greater risk of other heart problems. And because the person didn’t know to seek treatment, blood flow to the heart might not have been restored early on, and no medications were administered, so the impact could potentially be greater.