Heart attacks which aren’t noticeable enough to cause patients to seek medical treatment could be the cause of mysterious strokes that to date have baffled healthcare providers.

That is according to a study by the US-based National Institute on Ageing (NIA), comparing heart and brain imaging data from older adults in Iceland.

It shows that undetected heart attacks can scar and damage heart tissue in ways that may increase stroke risk.

Researchers examined 930 participants, with an average age of 76 years, who had undergone both cardiac and brain MRI scans.

The cardiac MRI imaging showed that 153 participants had experienced an undetected heart attack.

More than a third of patients showing signs of having had a silent heart attack also showed evidence of a stroke in their brain imaging.

The undetected heart attacks were associated with embolic stroke of undetermined source (ESUS), which are caused by a loss of blood supply to the brain and are triggered by clots or other vascular debris in the body.

Researchers are now planning additional studies to explore how the connection could impact future interventions targeting stroke recurrence and prevention.

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