Heart disease, the silent killer: Study shows it can strike without symptoms

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Heart disease is known as the “silent killer” for a reason – it accounts for an estimated 45% of all diseases Heart attack It comes without any of the classic symptoms, according to Harvard Medical School.

Now, a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that nearly half of the participants had signs of coronary heart disease or atherosclerosis — the buildup of plaque in arteries that can restrict blood flow — although there was no precedent. symptoms.

Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark studied more than 9,000 people aged 40 or older who had no symptoms or history of heart disease.

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Doctors used angiograms, which are medical pictures that show the inside of the heart, to determine the results.

Just over half of the participants showed no signs of heart disease.

However, 36% had “non-occlusive disease,” meaning there was some plaque buildup in the arteries but not enough to cause a blockage. Another 10% had “occlusive disease,” which involves a large buildup of plaque that can narrow or block arteries.

An estimated 45% of all heart attacks come without any of the classic symptoms.

An estimated 45% of all heart attacks come without any of the classic symptoms. (iStock)

The results stated that those who showed widespread obstructive disease were at increased risk of future heart attacks.

Within about 3.5 years, 193 people participating in the study had died and 71 had heart attacks.

Fox News Digital has reached out to the study authors for comment.

Dr. Adedapo Iluyomade, a preventive cardiologist at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute in South FloridaHe was not involved in the study, but reviewed the results.

“This study supports the importance of focusing on early prevention and early identification of patients who would be considered at high risk for future cardiovascular events,” he told Fox News Digital in an interview.

Who is at great risk?

Major risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressurediabetes, obesity, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some risk factors, such as gender and age, cannot be modified.

About half of the participants had some degree of heart disease, but no symptoms.

“Males are more susceptible, as are people over the age of 65,” said Dr. Ilouimad. “But at the same time, studies have shown that the process of atherosclerosis starts very early and very silently.”

The doctor warns that as early as 10 or 11 years old, fatty streaks can already be found in the arteries, which can eventually develop into Large accumulation of plaques in the arteries.

“There are some risk factors, such as genetics, environmental aspects and chronic infections, that cannot be easily correlated with a risk calculation or assessment tool,” he said.

In the study, doctors used angiograms, which are medical pictures that show the inside of the heart, to determine the participants' heart health.

In the study, doctors used angiograms, which are medical pictures that show the inside of the heart, to determine the participants’ heart health. (iStock)

“Coronary atherosclerosis often occurs in the absence of symptoms because the underlying risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, also do not cause symptoms,” said Dr. Jim Liu, a cardiologist at the hospital. Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He did not participate in the study.

“It is important for patients to see their health care providers routinely to ensure that these risk factors are addressed.”

The doctor calls for preventive examinations

Dr. Ilouimad is hopeful that increasing the availability of heart health screenings for asymptomatic people could help save lives.

In particular, he recommends cardiac tests to check your calcium score, which uses a computerized tomography (CT) scan to detect any plaque buildup in your arteries.

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“The CT calcium meter can detect whether or not plaque in the coronary arteries is obstructing blood flow,” he said. “It only takes seven minutes and the radiation exposure is minimal.”

Calcium CT scans are not usually covered by insurance; The cost is usually between $100 and $400, according to Healthline.

Another screening option is CT angiography, which was used in the University of Copenhagen study. This test involves injecting dye into the patient using an IV and then taking pictures of the blood vessels to detect any possible blockages.

"It is important for patients to see health care providers routinely to ensure that risk factors are addressed." a cardiologist told Fox News Digital.

“It is important for patients to see health care providers routinely to make sure that risk factors are addressed,” a cardiologist told Fox News Digital. (iStock)

In most cases, insurance pays for a CT angiogram only if the patient has symptoms, Dr. Ilouimad said.

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The main limitation of the Copenhagen study is that the research included only white people in Denmark.

Despite the remaining challenges, the progress that has been made has been encouraging for Dr. IloiloMade.

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“I think it’s a great day and age for preventative cardiology, where we’re able to detect the disease before it becomes a symptom and prevent it from causing problems,” he said.

In 2020, about 697,000 people died in the United States from heart disease, according to CDC data.

It is the leading cause of death for men, women, and members of most racial and ethnic groups in the country.

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