One would think that if you were suffering from heart disease, you would know it. But a new study shows that may not be the case.
Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit have found that many Black patients with high blood pressure also were suffering from hidden heart disease caused by their high blood pressure. Apparently, the heart disease didn't show any physical symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and heart attack.
Each of the study's 161 participants was recruited after a past visit to the emergency room. Ninety-four percent of them were African-American and from the inner city, and 52 percent were male.
Once enrolled, the participants were given an echocardiogram — an ultrasound for the heart that tests for abnormalities — and nine out of 10 had undiagnosed heart disease. For those with hidden heart disease, a majority of them also were diagnosed with diastolic dysfunction, which is when the heart can't pump blood correctly.
According to News Medical Net, the researchers also found the following:
—While slightly more than 93 percent of 161 patients in the study had a history of hypertension, 90.7 percent tested positive for hidden hypertensive heart disease. None knew their high blood pressure was affecting their hearts and did not show any symptomatic signs of heart disease.
—Most of the patients (93.8 percent) had a history of high blood pressure and were aware that they had the condition, but only 68.3 percent were receiving treatment.
Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of emergency medicine and lead author, noted these findings speak to the need for more doctors to test their patients for heart disease regardless of symptoms and regardless if they are being seen for hypertension.
Levy said, "If we can detect incipient heart disease early, we have a better shot at treating it before it turns into a full-blown health emergency. Our study is also a strong reminder that emergency patients with chronic disease — in this case, hypertension — are generally a high-risk group."
He also emphasized the need for doctors to screen for untreated high blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure can cause many serious health issues such as kidney damage, stroke, heart disease and even death.
These findings are particularly important to African-Americans because we disproportionately suffer from high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, more than 40 percent of all African-Americans suffer from high blood pressure. And not only do we develop high blood pressure at a younger age, our disease is often more severe than our white counterparts.
Learn more about high blood pressure and what you can do to prevent it here.
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(Photo: Rick Gershon/Getty Images)