Not all heart attacks come with warning signs. Those that don’t—silent heart attacks—carry a poorer prognosis because patients often don’t seek medical care in a timely manner. Results from a new study from Norway indicate that people with higher pain tolerance are more likely to experience such silent heart attacks.
The researchers studied almost 5,000 people who underwent both a brief test of pain tolerance through exposure to ice-cold water and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to look for signs of damage from a previous heart attack. Participants’ medical records were also reviewed to see if they had ever been diagnosed with a heart attack, either symptomatic or silent.
More of the participants had experienced a silent heart attack than a symptomatic one: 8% versus 4.7%. On average, those diagnosed with a silent heart attack endured the cold-exposure test for significantly longer than people whose heart attacks had symptoms. This association was stronger in women than in men. Such a reduced sensitivity to pain may help explain the lack of symptoms associated with silent heart attack, wrote the study authors.
- Read the full article in the Journal of the American Heart Association