Heart attack often strikes with known symptoms – chest pain, shortness of breath and nausea. However, for every recognized heart attack, two more remain unrecognized among the older adults, according to a new study.
The evidence comes from an imaging study of 936 elderly men and women in Iceland. Seventeen percent of them had signs of unrecognized heart attack. Their blood vessel blockage scarred the heart as evident from their MRI images. While patients with symptoms of heart attack can be rushed to hospitals, those with unrecognized symptoms are vulnerable. More than 90 percent of the study participants had unrecognized symptoms of heart attack.
According to the study author Dr. Andrew Arai of the Bethesda Md.-based National Blood, Heart and Lung Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, “The fact that there were more people with unrecognized heart attacks than recognized heart attacks suggests it's a big problem”.
Additionally, the unrecognized heart attacks do not mean they are any less deadly that the recognized heart attacks. The study investigated 157 people whose heart attacks went unnoticed, of which 44 died within eight years of follow up.
Dr Arai, whose study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association appears concerned at the study outcome: “I think doctors need to be looking more carefully for this,” he says, and goes on to add, “And maybe we should be treating these people a little more aggressively. In someone we know had a heart attack, we work twice as hard to lower their cholesterol.”
Half of the patients with unrecognized heart attacks, according to Dr Arai confused the symptoms with flu or indigestion at the time, while the other half had no idea at all. Most such patients are surprised when they hear that their hearts have been damaged. It could have possibly happened in their sleep. Also, possibly diabetics cannot always feel it because warning signals remain unregistered by their damaged nerves. About 28 percents of the participants were diabetics
A study on unrecognized symptoms of heart attack reveals that “of more than one million heart attack patients, women under 55 are less likely to seek medical attention for those atypical symptoms and more likely to die in a hospital from a heart attack than men of the same age.”
The top five symptoms of heart disease in women include fatigue, shortness of breath, indigestion, upper abdominal pain or nausea, jaw or throat pain and arm pain, especially the left arm. Women, however, tend to down play their symptoms and wait longer to come to the hospital, according to abc News.