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Nearly half of all heart attacks could be going undiagnosed.

More than 40 per cent of heart attacks may be going undiagnosed at the time they occur, research suggests.

A team of Dutch researchers assessed more than 4,000 men and women over the age of 55 to see if any had suffered a heart attack which went undiagnosed.

They estimated that 43 per cent of heart attacks had been clinically unrecognised.

Men were more likely to get a diagnosis straight after an attack than women, according to the study in the European Heart Journal.

The researchers, from the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, said that the findings suggested that the role of electrocardiograms (ECG) in current health programmes to prevent further heart trouble should be evaluated.

The team enrolled 5,148 people with no evidence of having had a myocardial infarction (MI) - a heart attack - from 1990 to 1993, with each having a baseline ECG and examination.

Information from clinically recognised MIs - those that were formally diagnosed - were analysed, with an average of six years follow-up.

The researchers found 4,187 people went on to have at least one more ECG and these were analysed to see if they had at some point suffered a heart attack that was not diagnosed at the time.

Lead researcher Dr Jacqueline Witteman said over six years they found a rate of nine heart attacks occurring per 1,000 person years.

This was about 12 heart attacks in men - 8.4 recognised and 4.2 unrecognised - and seven in women - 3.1 recognised and 3.6 unrecognised. Co-author Dr Eric Boersma said there were several factors likely to help explain why heart attacks could go unrecognised.

"They may sense shoulder pain instead of chest pain, they may think they have severe flu that is taking a long time to recover from."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 14, 2006
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