Russert death calls attention to 'silent heart attack' - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Ben Watson

Russert death calls attention to 'silent heart attack'

Tim Russert (NBC/Universal) Tim Russert (NBC/Universal)

The sudden death of broadcaster Tim Russert has people around the country thinking more about heart attacks and the warning signs.

Doctors say Russert knew he had heart problems and he thought he was managing the risks with medication and exercise.

The heart attack that killed Russert was not the kind that most patients experience, with a sudden pain in the chest or arm. 

Instead, according to Dr. Khawar Shaikh of Methodist South, the heart attack that killed Russert was something more people need to be aware of.  It's called a silent heart attack, and its symptoms come on slowly and are not easily recognized until after the patient succumbs.

"They may be completely silent like...or they might have a slightly different set of symptoms," Shaikh said. "It may be a little jaw pain, it may be just symptoms of passing out or fainting spells, and that may be suggesting that are developing a heart injury."

Doctors said the heart attack that killed Russert was not even detectable when he underwent a stress test back in April.

The underlying danger is the blockage that can occur in the heart, and that blockage can be fatal if not treated in time.

Shaikh said it's important that you recognize the risk factors to heart attacks: things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.  People who smoke are also at a greater risk, as well as people with a history of heart disease in their family.

Click here for more information about heart attacks and their warning signs.

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