Study: More than half of adults over 40 may have latent heart disease
04/06/2023 // Zoey Sky // Views

A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that heart disease may develop at an early age and remain latent for many years. This means you could have heart disease and not experience symptoms until later in life.

The researchers who conducted the study analyzed data from over 9,000 participants older than 40 from Copenhagen, Denmark. The research team tried to learn more about the participants' risk for heart disease.

After studying the data, the researchers discovered that a significant number of the participants had not been diagnosed with heart disease. However, they did have subclinical obstructive coronary atherosclerosis – a type of heart disease without symptoms, but is linked to more than an eight-fold elevated risk for myocardial infarction, or heart attack.

Subclinical coronary atherosclerosis, commonly known as coronary heart disease or ischemic heart disease, is a condition not associated with any symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can develop coronary heart disease if you have a build-up of plaque in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your heart.

It is this build-up of plaque that can result in a heart attack. (Related: Regular exercise is key to heart disease prevention, reveals study.)

A new way of looking at coronary artery disease

The researchers are hopeful that their study can provide other scientists with "a new and significant way to observe the natural history of coronary artery disease."


Dr. Klaus Fuglsang Kofoed, the study's lead researcher and a clinical associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, explained that the study highlights the importance of closely monitoring heart issues and early detection.

Kofoed added that the study is one of the first of this kind. The scientists have seen success with lung cancer and cancer screening, and they want to "pull more people who are already getting a CT scan to also include screening for cardiovascular disease."

An accompanying editorial by authors from the BHF Center for Cardiovascular Science at the University of Edinburgh said the data from this study can be used to learn more about the current history of coronary artery disease in the absence of intervention, where neither the patient nor clinician is "aware of scan findings.'

For the study, the scientists followed 9,533 asymptomatic adults aged 40 years or older without a known cardiovascular disease to "define characteristics of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis associated with the development of myocardial infarction."

The research team used computed tomography angiography (CTA) to diagnose obstructive coronary atherosclerosis among the volunteers. Results revealed that 54 percent of the volunteers had no subclinical coronary atherosclerosis.

Additionally, 46 percent of the volunteers were diagnosed with subclinical coronary atherosclerosis. This included 36 percent with nonobstructive disease and 10 percent with obstructive disease.

The research team said that for more than 50 years, obstructive coronary artery disease has been considered a key feature of elevated risk.

But within the past decades, the extent of atherosclerosis and specific morphologic features of atherosclerotic plaque were better understood as important risk factors.

Early detection is key to preventing heart disease

Kofoed warned that heart issues may evolve at an early age, many years before the clinical disease develops.

He added that early detection should be an important aspect of the treatment of cardiac issues, similar to how screenings and early detection are important for cancer treatment.

According to Kofoed, while liquid biopsy is still tricky when conducted for the early detection of heart disease, it has potential to make an impact.

Dr. Elizabeth Kordas, a preventative cardiologist, said that while most of the study findings aren't new, it is crucial for heart disease prevention.

Kordas, who was not a part of the study, said that the study confirms what experts already know – that this process "starts early and it can make itself known in many ways." She added that getting regular assessments of your risk should start in childhood, with information about important factors like your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Lifestyle changes that can help prevent heart disease

Heart disease is scary, no matter what your age.

Follow the tips below and make lifestyle changes to reduce your heart disease risk:

Follow a balanced diet

Avoid junk food and limit your intake of saturated fats, foods high in sodium and added sugars.

Make sure your diet includes a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Follow healthy eating plans like the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet to help reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Lose weight/maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease.

This is because excess weight is often associated with other heart disease risk factors, including diabetes, high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and high blood pressure. Fortunately, controlling your weight can lower these risks.

Manage your blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Make sure you get your blood pressure checked regularly: Do it at least once a year for adults, and more often if you have hypertension.

Make lifestyle changes, to prevent or control hypertension.

Manage your cholesterol and triglyceride levels

High levels of cholesterol can clog your arteries and increase your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. Lifestyle changes can help lower your cholesterol.

Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. High levels of triglycerides may also raise the risk of coronary artery disease, especially if you are female.

Exercise regularly

Exercise offers many benefits, such as strengthening your heart and improving your circulation. Regular physical activity can also help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

These can help lower your risk of heart disease.

Limit alcohol consumption

Too much of a good thing is always bad for your health, and drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Alcohol consumption can also add extra calories, which may result in weight gain.

Both of those raises the risk of heart disease.

Experts recommend that men should have no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, while women should not have more than one.

Quit smoking

Smoking cigarettes raises your blood pressure and increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.

If you don't smoke, don't start now.

If you do smoke, quitting can still help lower your risk for heart disease. Consult your physician or your healthcare provider for help in finding the best way for you to quit smoking.

Get enough sleep at night

Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. These three things can increase your heart disease risk.

Keep in mind that the average adult needs at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

If you have trouble falling asleep, make changes to improve your sleep habits. If you suffer from chronic sleep disorders, check in with your healthcare provider.

Sleep apnea, one common disorder, can make people briefly stop breathing many times during sleep. This interferes with your ability to get a good night's rest and can raise heart disease risk.

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, ask your doctor about having a sleep study. If you confirm that you do have sleep apnea, get a treatment for it.

Improve your lifestyle habits and maintain your overall well-being to reduce your heart disease risk.

Watch the video below for 10 ways to reduce or eliminate heart disease risk.

This video is from the EnergyMe333 channel on

More related stories:

Adopting a healthy diet and an active lifestyle can lower your risk of heart disease.

Here are 4 reasons to include tree nuts in your diet.

Cardiologist: Over 7M Americans may have some form of HEART INJURY due to COVID-19 vaccines.

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