Heart disease is the leading cause of mortality around the world, with heart attacks and strokes accounting for roughly a third of all deaths each year. And according to new data released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year saw record high numbers of heart-related deaths. “In raw numbers, there were about 32,000 more heart disease deaths than the year before,” NBC News reported, citing the CDC’s data.
While the health authority offered its statistics without an explanation for the rise in cases, the news outlet notes that many patients refused to seek treatment for suspected heart attacks for fear of being exposed to COVID-19.
This troubling report highlights just how important it is to call for help if you suspect a heart attack—and to learn the condition’s lesser known symptoms. Read on to find which surprising heart attack sign occurs in your mouth, and what to do if you’ve got one or more symptoms of heart failure.
Nearly half of heart attacks are “silent.”
Most people assume that they would know whether or not they were suffering a heart attack, but experts say that in reality, roughly 45 percent of heart attacks are considered “silent.” These episodes, known medically as silent myocardial infarction (SMI), often “lack the intensity of a classic heart attack” and present with atypical symptoms or no symptoms at all, explains Harvard Health Publishing.
“SMI symptoms can feel so mild, and be so brief, they often get confused for regular discomfort or another less serious problem,” Jorge Plutzky, MD, a vascular disease specialist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital said via the Harvard Medical School site.
Jaw pain is a lesser known sign of heart attack.
Among these atypical heart attack symptoms is pain in the jaw. Some people notice pressure or tightness in the jaw, while others experience it as a sharper pain, similar to a toothache. It can also be accompanied by more recognizable heart attack symptoms, including discomfort or pain in the neck, back, or chest.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, women who experience jaw pain as a heart attack symptom are most likely to notice it in the lower left side of the jaw. Additionally, women are more likely than men to experience jaw pain during a heart attack, and less likely than men to experience the better known symptoms of heart attack, such as stabbing chest pain.
There are also other possible explanations for your jaw pain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several explanations for your jaw pain other than heart attack—especially if you experience the symptom on its own. Speak with your healthcare professional to rule out coronary artery disease, joint disorders, arthritis, and tooth grinding, all of which can cause jaw pain, as well.
This is when to call 911.
The Cleveland Clinic warns against dismissing your symptoms, and says that you should call 911 for emergency assistance if you experience chest pain or discomfort along with any of the following symptoms for more than five minutes: nausea or vomiting; sweating, including cold sweats; breathing problems; severe weakness, anxiety, dizziness, or feeling light-headed; a faster than normal or irregular heartbeat; a choking sensation, indigestion, or a feeling of fullness; and pain in the upper half of your body, including, but not limited to, the jaw, neck, back, stomach, and arms.
When it comes to your heart, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so if you notice unusual symptoms that may be heart-related, err on the side of caution and talk to a medical professional as soon as possible.