A new study has found asymptomatic cardiovascular condition could develop early and remain hidden for a long time before revealing itself in the form of a heart attack.
Researchers from Copenhagen, Denmark, studied over 9,000 persons without a known history of cardiovascular disease, who were 40 or older, to determine their risk of heart disease.
The findings, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, highlighted that a large number of the overall participants weren’t diagnosed with heart disease, but did have subclinical obstructive coronary atherosclerosis–a type of asymptomatic heart disease with a more than eight-fold elevated risk for myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack.
Subclinical obstructive coronary atherosclerosis is a medical term for heart conditions without symptoms. The disease can develop on a long-term basis, typically by the build-up of plaque (fats, cholesterol, and other substances in and on the artery walls), causing the arteries to narrow and block the blood flow.
The situation isn’t detected until an artery is blocked to the point that it can no longer supply oxygen or blood to other organs in the body, according to Mayo Clinic. Moreover, subclinical obstructive coronary comes without any symptoms, sneakily affecting the heart for years.
Lead researcher of the study, Dr. Klaus Fuglsang Kofoed, who is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Cardiology, The Heart Center at the University of Copenhagen, told Healthline the study seeks to introduce a new way to trace the timeline of the subclinical coronary artery disease. He said it aims to boot out the chances of a subsequent heart attack by closely monitoring cardiovascular issues for early detection.
“This study is one of the first of this type. We’re very optimistic about what we are doing. We have seen success with lung cancer and cancer screening. We hope to pull more people who are already getting a CT scan to also include screening for cardiovascular disease,” said Kofoed.
The study followed 9,533 asymptomatic persons. Participants were assessed using computed tomography angiography to diagnose obstructive coronary atherosclerosis. It was found that 54% of persons did not have the condition, whereas 46% of persons were diagnosed with subclinical coronary atherosclerosis–which included 36% with nonobstructive disease and 10% with obstructive disease.
Kofoed, therefore, concluded early detection was important for heart disease.
“I must say that to some extent this is similar to cancer. There are efforts to improve our early detection in cardio, as well, and one of them is to get DNA from the blood. Liquid biopsy is still tricky as far as early detection of heart disease. But we think it has potential,” Kofoed said.