Scientists from the Netherlands have discovered that four out of every nine people who suffer a mild heart attack do not know they’ve had one. Patients seem either not to recognize that the event happened or they dismiss their symptoms as being unimportant. This is a dangerous reality, as a mild heart attack is a warning sign that things need to change — and that you need to pay more attention to your body’s most important muscle.
After they selected 1,000 people from the general population, who were above the age of 55, researchers found that nine of them had experienced heart attacks. Of those nine individuals, four of the heart attacks were not recognized by either the patient or, surprisingly enough, by their doctor.
Although the study is Dutch, the researchers said that the numbers could apply to virtually any developed country. And those numbers included the fact that women — especially overweight, diabetic, or elderly ones — are more likely to have an undiagnosed heart attack than men.
The problem is that without recognition, a mild heart attack greatly increases the risk of future cardiac problems occurring. Without making lifestyle alterations or even taking a prescription drug to treat a condition that might have caused it (high blood pressure, arrhythmia, etc.) or one to prevent a future episode, it can progress to a more serious heart attack or atherosclerosis. It could even lead to a stroke later down the road.
In the study, the scientists looked at people who had not previously had a heart attack. All of them were examined and had an “electrocardiogram” completed. They followed these people for an average of six years.
During that time, every patient got at least one more electrocardiogram to detect any undiagnosed heart attacks. And there they found that about 43% of heart attacks had never been recognized! Divvying up into sexes, it meant that one-third of heart attacks were present in men and half of those were suffered by women.
This study brings up the need to reiterate the signs of a heart attack so that you know when you have had one. Chest pain is the obvious sign, but sometimes it is unnoticeable. Sometimes the pain is in the shoulder, arm, back, teeth, or jaw instead.
Symptoms also can include any of the following: Unexplained sweating; lightheadedness; fainting; nausea or vomiting; pressure or a squeezing pain in the center of your chest that lasts for more than a few minutes; pain that lasts for a while in the upper abdomen; shortness of breath; and a sense that something has gone wrong in your body.
As people age, they should know that they face a very real risk of suffering a heart attack. Women are more likely to ignore this reality then men. If you want to cut your risk, do not smoke, lower your blood pressure if you have hypertension, lower your cholesterol levels, lose weight, and exercise regularly. Also make dietary changes to include more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.