MAR 15, 2021 6:16 AM PDT

'Silent' Heart Attacks Linked to Significant Increase in Stroke Risk

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Silent heart attacks can happen, in which blood flow to the heart is blocked, and heart tissue may be damaged, but they occur with no symptoms, or symptoms that are so mild a person may disregard it or attribute it to another minor ailment like heartburn. But researchers are now warning that these silent attacks seem to raise the risk of stroke in people over the age of 65. The findings are going to be presented at the virtual meeting of the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference 2021.

Image credit: Pixabay / pasja1000

"Long-term risk of death can be as high after a silent heart attack as it is with a recognized heart attack, and it turns out silent heart attacks are more frequent than traditional chest-crushing heart attacks in older adults," noted study author Alexander E. Merkler, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. "We found having a silent heart attack increases stroke risk, suggesting silent heart attacks may need to be recognized as a new risk factor for stroke."

In this work, the researchers reviewed health data from over 4,200 individuals that were part of the Cardiovascular Health Study, which enrolled people over the age of 65 from 1989 to 1990. Annual visits at multiple centers around the United States occurred, and researchers assessed the risk of stroke in the study participants for an average of ten years. The study followed up on the volunteers until 2015.

The study determined that there was a 47 percent increase in the risk of stroke in people that had experienced a silent heart attack compared to those that did not. It was even more significant for those who had the typical symptoms of a heart attack like severe chest pain and shortness of breath; their stroke risk increased 80 fold within a month of their heart attack compared to people who had not had a heart attack. After that risky month, those who had typical heart attack symptoms went on to have a 60 percent increase in their risk of stroke.

"Our research suggests the increased risk for having a stroke in those with silent heart attacks is similar to the risk found in traditional heart attacks. A silent heart attack may be capable of causing clots in the heart that dislodge and travel to the brain causing a stroke," Merkler said.

This study suggests that when an ECG reveals that a silent heart attack may have taken place, a patient should be considered to have an elevated risk of stroke.

"More research is needed to understand how best to treat patients with silent heart attacks to prevent stroke," Merkler noted. "It may also be worthwhile to conduct studies aimed at evaluating whether routine cardiac evaluation for silent heart attacks is warranted in order to help stratify the risk of stroke."

Unfortunately, this study enrolled primarily white participants, so it's difficult to know whether these results apply to other racial or ethnic groups. It also did not assess the impact of silent heart attacks in younger people.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via American Heart Association

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 28, 2020
Cardiology
A Single-Cell Atlas Provides New Details on the Heart
SEP 28, 2020
A Single-Cell Atlas Provides New Details on the Heart
For the first time, researchers have gained unprecedented insight into the function of the healthy human heart by creati ...
OCT 04, 2020
Cardiology
The Genetics of Body Fat May Shape Health Risks
OCT 04, 2020
The Genetics of Body Fat May Shape Health Risks
The work may help explain why men and women are at risk for different diseases and often respond to different treatments ...
NOV 03, 2020
Cardiology
A New Peptide Could Help Repair and Protect the Heart During Ischemia Reperfusion Injury
NOV 03, 2020
A New Peptide Could Help Repair and Protect the Heart During Ischemia Reperfusion Injury
Cardiovascular disease is one of the most common causes of death in the world. Although we have many treatments against ...
DEC 10, 2020
Cardiology
CircRNAs as Prognostic Indicators for Atrial Fibrillation
DEC 10, 2020
CircRNAs as Prognostic Indicators for Atrial Fibrillation
The use of genetics in therapies and diagnostics has boomed over the decades. While many of these breakthroughs focus on ...
DEC 29, 2020
Cardiology
Does Physical Activity Help Reduce the Risk of Aneurysms?
DEC 29, 2020
Does Physical Activity Help Reduce the Risk of Aneurysms?
An active lifestyle is a proven way to prevent many types of cardiovascular diseases. The increased blood flow can preve ...
JAN 05, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Brown Fat Appears to Protect Against Disease
JAN 05, 2021
Brown Fat Appears to Protect Against Disease
Not all fat is the same. White fat is what we're usually thinking of when we think of flabby tissue that stores excess c ...
Loading Comments...