Doctors have long known about so-called “silent heart attacks” that can strike without warning, and be discovered only later during cardiac testing. However, a recent study showed that they may be more frequent — and more dangerous — than was previously thought.
Researchers in Iceland looked at data from 936 elderly men and women who had undergone MRIs, and found that 17 percent showed signs of an unrecognized heart attack. Less than 10 percent had experienced recognizable symptoms.
But that’s not the only problem. It also turned out that these unrecognized heart attacks were not milder than the documented ones. Indeed, they turned out to be almost as serious. Of the 157 people whose heart attacks went unnoticed, 44 died within eight years of follow-up.
According to the study’s authors, about half of those who suffered these “silent” heart attacks recalled having symptoms that they attributed to the flu or indigestion at the time. Also, roughly 28 percent had diabetes, which causes neuropathy, a nerve disorder that can mask chest pain.
If you have diabetes or heart disease, make sure your doctor monitors you closely. And call 911 if you are suffering symptoms at all that could be a heart attack.
I also recommend you undergo an annual EKG, which is a valuable tool with which your physician can monitor your heart.
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