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'Silent' heart attacks may be more common than previously thought.

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Heart attacks that the patient does not notice, so-called "silent" heart attacks, may be much more common than was previously thought, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center.

These heart attacks, officially called unrecognized myocardial infarctions, may be associated with a surprisingly high risk of untimely death.

Using a fairly new imaging technique called delayed enhancement cardiovascular magnetic resonance, or DE-CMR, the researchers scanned 185 patients suspected of having blocked arteries, but no history of heart attacks and found that 35 percent of them had evidence of a heart attack. In follow up, they found that those who had a previous silent heart attack were at much higher risk of dying of heart problems later.

Han Kim, M.D., a cardiologist at Duke and the lead author of the study, told CNN that there is no reason for people to be generally screened for silent heart attacks unless they have other heart problems.

"Currently, there has not been a study that has demonstrated that early identification and therapy changes how patients with unrecognized heart attacks do in the future," said Kim. "If you don't know when an actual event occurred, it becomes difficult to prescribe therapy."

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