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Silent Symptoms

Becoming aware of unrecognized heart attacks.

Vigilance Pays

To reduce the chance of a heart attack passing unnoticed, you can become more aware of some unexpected symptoms that accompany such an event. "Most 'silent' heart attacks really aren't silent; they're just not noticed," says Richard Stein, M.D., Chief of Cardiology at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York. "If questioned carefully, many patients will recall some vague symptoms, such as indigestion or back pain, that they blamed on something else at the time."

Be extra-vigilant of symptoms if you have heart-disease risk factors, such as a family history of heart attack or other heart disease, obesity, inactivity, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

If you have risk factors, you should also talk to your doctor aboutgetting frequent electrocardiograms, Sheifer says. If an old heart attack is detected, it is wise to undergo a thorough treadmill test or otherkind of screening.

The Voice of Experience

Smith says his experiences have made him more health conscious. "I learned how to exercise and watch my diet, and not to delay seeking medical help if I had any symptoms at all."

As Stein says, "If you have any doubts, go to the emergencyroom. Don't worry about embarrassment -- it's better to be embarrassedthan dead."

Sharon Cohen is a senior editor at Shape and Fit Pregnancy magazines.

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