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May 18, 2016
Report: Almost half of heart attacks are 'silent'
By Lindsey Tanner
CHICAGO — Almost half of all heart attacks cause no obvious symptoms, yet they can still be life-threatening, according to research on more than 9,000 middle-aged men and women.
It's one of the biggest studies to examine so-called silent heart attacks, and to also explore them across racial and gender groups.
Researchers at Wake Forest University's medical school led the government-funded study. Results were published online Monday in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation.
Participants had periodic clinic exams including electrocardiograms and phone interviews with the researchers. They were followed for about 13 years.
Silent heart attacks were found on EKGs in 317 participants, or about 3 percent, who hadn't had suspicious symptoms. By contrast, 386 patients, or 4 percent, had full-blown heart attacks with symptoms. Symptoms often include chest pain, jaw and arm pain and shortness of breath. Silent heart attacks may cause mild fatigue or other vague symptoms that don't seem serious.
Among black women, silent heart attacks were more common than classic attacks; among white women the rates were about the same.
Previous studies on the prevalence of silent heart attacks have had varying results ranging from about 20 percent to 60 percent of all heart attacks. The authors of the current research note that many were on smaller, less diverse groups of patients.
Smoking and family history of heart disease were slightly less common among silent heart attack patients but otherwise the groups were pretty similar.