Silent Heart Attacks are an Increased Risk for Stroke

Most people do not realize that some heart attacks are “silent” and go undetected. They simply are not noticeable enough to send patients to the emergency room (ER). A study led by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) was published May 20, 2019 by researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College and the Icelandic MI Heart Association in JAMA Neurology. The results showed that not only were some heart attacks undetected, but a third of the patients who had experienced a silent heart attack also showed signs of a stroke on their brain imaging. Thus, they concluded that silent undetected heart attacks may be an increased risk for stroke.


The researchers examined data collected from the ICELAND MI Study, which was an offshoot of the Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study (AGES).

Participants in the study were 925 seniors (480 were women) average age about 75-6 who had been sent for both cardiac and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Cardiac MRI imaging is more sensitive than regular echocardiograms and these showed that 153 of the participants had experienced a “silent” heart attack (myocardial infarction). MRI brain imaging showed that 308 had experienced a stroke (cerebral infarction). More than a third of those who had experienced a silent heart attack also showed evidence of a stroke. These silent heart attacks were associated with an embolic stroke of undetermined source (ESUS). In general ESUS strokes make up one third of all ischemic strokes. Ischemic strokes are caused by reduced or cut-off blood flow to the brain due to a blood clot or something else that causes an obstruction in the arteries carrying blood to the brain. It is more difficult to find an effective treatment to prevent these ESUS strokes.


Silent undetected heart attacks are a major risk factor for blood clots in the heart and for strokes.

Further Research is being planned to find out how this association of silent heart attacks with strokes could lead to effective interventions to prevent the development or a recurrence of a stroke.

Heart Disease in the United States

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, although more than half are to men.
  • More than 600,000 Americans die every year from heart disease which is one in every four deaths.
  • Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease and CHD kills more than 370,000 people every year.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack (525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 occur in people who already had experienced a heart attack).

Stroke in the United States

  • According to the CDC, stroke is the 5th leading cause of death.
  • Stroke kills about 140,000 Americans each year (1 out of every 20 deaths).
  • Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke.
  • Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.
  • About 185,00 strokes, nearly 1 out of 4, are in people who have had a previous stroke.
  • About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked often by a blood clot.
  • Stroke costs the United States an estimated $34 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.

Both Heart Disease and Stroke are for the Most Park Preventable

Both heart disease and stroke are largely preventable by following a good and healthy lifestyle. For example both stroke and heart disease are strongly linked to smoking tobacco.

See our blog post from February 1, 2019 about how eating nuts may prevent heart disease, strokes and cancer.

Long-term Skelled Nursing Care at the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York

If you or your loved one are in need of long-term skilled nursing care for heart disease or post-stroke, the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York offers excellent long-term care at the hands of a warm and caring staff. Van Duyn also has a fantastic array of recreational programs and activities.


It certainly pays to give up smoking to avoid the risk of a heart attack, whether detected or not and to also prevent the development of strokes.

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