Study: silent heart attacks twice as common as those

The thought of a heart attack is frightening.{} After all, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.

Surprisingly, for all of those who experience the classic symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea and fatigue, nearly twice as many have none at all.

According to that new study in the Journal{}of the American Medical Association, MRI{}images done on a group of elderly men and women in Iceland found 17% had suffered an "unrecognized" or "silent" without triggering the familiar{}of symptoms.

Experts say this suggests a big problem. Since those silent heart attacks are often a warning sign of an impending or larger and more life-threatening one, doctors need to look carefully at their older patients--especially those who are diabetic--or those who present vague or nonspecific symptoms.

Because damage from unrecognized heart attacks can't be undone and can only be detected through expensive MRI{}scans --determining the right test and medication comes down to a balance of risks and benefits--something doctors should discuss with each patient, individually.