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Drs. Roizen and Oz: What is a silent heart attack?

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Sunday, August 02, 2015 09:01 pm

Q: I went for a checkup and one thing led to another — now my doctor says I've had a silent heart attack! I'm supposed to get a catheterization and maybe an angioplasty to open up a closed artery. How is that possible? I never felt anything that I thought was a heart attack! — Jean F., MinneapolisA: Silent heart attacks or myocardial infarctions — episodes in which the heart is deprived of blood and oxygen, but there are no obvious signs of distress — are a lot more common than you might think. The usual statistics say that overall, 20 to 30 percent of heart attacks are silent, and the Iceland MI study of almost 1,000 67- to 93-year-olds found that UMIs (unrecognized myocardial infarctions) are more common than heart attacks that produce clear symptoms (chest pain, shortness of breath and nausea), especially in folks over age 75 or people with diabetes. Diabetes-related nerve damage can mute pain sensations.

Researchers also found that most folks who had suffered UMIs weren't aware that they had heart disease, but had more severe atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) than people in the study group who had already had a heart attack and survived!

The symptoms of UMI (if any) are easily mistaken for a passing bout of the flu, a cold, fatigue or heartburn. So it's very possible to have a UMI and, if you survive, go on your merry way without getting heart-helping treatments or making adjustments to a more heart-friendly lifestyle. But it's not too late (you were very lucky!) to start.

Talk with your doc and find out about what you can do now, such as taking two 81-mg aspirins with a glass of warm water every day, lowering your blood pressure, upgrading your diet (losing weight), safely increasing your physical activity and taking a statin. Maybe getting a catheterization or an angioplasty is the best way to open up your blocked artery. You have a lot of good choices that will help you live a longer, healthier life.

Q: My 16-year-old son loves his video games and smartphone, but he's starting to get head- and neckaches, and I suspect it's from his computer and phone. Is there any way help him avoid those problems? — Kaitlyn B., Somerset, N.J.

A: You're right about the physical hazards of too much phone and computer time. The U.K.'s United Chiropractic Association says that the forward hunch from texting and computer time can cause life-threatening breathing and cardio problems. Chronic texting can cause poor posture and distorted spinal curvature. That can lead to headaches, finger and wrist problems and neck, shoulder and back pain. Such aches and pains are increasingly common in young folks. One Baylor University study found that kids spend more time on their phone than sleeping, studying or eating! At that university, women average 10 hours on their phone daily, men around eight. Texting took up around 94 minutes a day; sending emails, 48 minutes.

So next time your son complains about his aching neck, let him know you're hip to how you can help him ease the ache.

1. Make sure his sitting posture is good. Thighs parallel to the floor, chin up, computer or smartphone straight ahead.

2. Show him these easy stretches (and others at sharecare.com) that relieve strain and pain.

• Place right arm over top of head covering your left ear with your right hand. Let your head tilt right so your right ear comes toward your right shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position; do stretch on other side. Repeat two times.

• Stand with your feet shoulder's width apart; interlock fingers and stretch them over your head, palms to the sky. Keep your shoulders relaxed, and hold for 20 seconds. Return arms to side and shake wrists. Repeat two times.

• Bring your right arm across chest; hold upper right arm with left hand; gently pull across body. Hold for 20 seconds; repeat on other side. Repeat two times.  

Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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