Study Confirms Heart Disease Can Begin Without Symptoms

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March 28, 2023 -- New research suggests many adults might have latent heart disease before any symptoms show up.

That means heart disease could develop earlier in life but remain hidden, according to a study of more than 9,000 people in Denmark published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Almost half were found to have signs of coronary heart disease or coronary atherosclerosis.

“Obstructive coronary atherosclerosis is associated with a more than 8-fold elevated risk for myocardial infarction, colloquially known as heart attack,” Healthline reported.

Researchers said they found a high rate of subclinical obstructive coronary atherosclerosis. “Subclinical” means it has no symptoms.

The CDC says the disease is caused when plaque builds in in the arteries supplying blood to the heart. The plaque build-up can cause a heart attack.

Researchers told Healthline the study proves how important it is to monitor health issues and early detection, since heart issues can start years before disease develops.

In the study, participants were assessed using computed tomography angiography (CTA) to diagnose obstructive coronary atherosclerosis, Healthline said. More than half, 54%, had no subclinical coronary atherosclerosis; 46% did have it, which included 36% with nonobstructive disease and 10% with obstructive disease.

“My overall take on this study is that it confirms what we already know. This process starts early, and it can make itself known in many ways,” said Elizabeth Klodas, MD, chief medical officer of One Step Foods, who was not involved in the study.

“But I would say that this study is valuable. It makes all the sense in the world to start prevention early. Don’t wait.”