In a new study, researchers found that silent heart attacks appear to increase stroke risk in adults 65 and older.
They found the long-term risk of death can be as high after a silent heart attack as it is with a recognized heart attack, and silent heart attacks are more frequent than traditional chest-crushing heart attacks in older adults.
The research was conducted by a team at Weill Cornell Medicine.
A silent heart attack, also known as a silent myocardial infarction, has no, minimal or unrecognized symptoms.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) or some form of imaging of the heart like an echocardiogram or cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is needed for diagnosis.
In the study, the team analyzed health information on more than 4,200 adults who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study.
Participants were 65 years old or older at the start of the study and were enrolled from 1989-1990.
Researchers examined participants’ stroke risk for an average of 10 years, with follow-up through June 30, 2015.
They found that people who had a silent heart attack had a 47% increased risk of developing a stroke, compared to adults who did not have a silent heart attack.
People who had classic symptoms of a heart attack had an 80-fold increased risk of stroke within one month after their heart attack, compared to participants who were heart attack-free.
After the high-risk, one-month period, participants with classic symptoms of a heart attack had a 60% increased risk of having a stroke.
The 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.
One author of the study is Alexander E. Merkler, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology.
The study was presented at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference 2021.
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