There are often overlooked symptoms of a heart attack. Today’s article focuses on a not so well known heart attack, MINOCA, that primarily targets women.

This type of heart attack is unique in the sense that it is not caused by obstructed arteries, which are the cause of most heart attacks. Hence it is often overlooked by medical practitioners.

What does MINOCA mean?

MINOCA is the acronym for Myocardial Infarction with Nonobstructive Coronary Arteries.

Initial Study on MINOCA

Findings from the Canadian University of Alberta which had a team of researchers carrying out the ever long-term study on MINOCA were published in the International Journal of Cardiology in July 2015.

Their findings were highlighted by US cardiologist at KentuckyOne Health, Dr Suresh Sharma, who said “The authors of this study should be congratulated for their efforts to shed light on the need for greater evaluation and management of these patients.” Dr Sharma opined that cardiologists in general do not take MINOCA seriously enough.

Another leading cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, Dr Matthew Solomon, feels the study did not go far enough before being concluded. Dr Solomon said that although the study provides great insight, it did not conclude with a suitable treatment for MINOCA patients.

What causes MINOCA?

On the brighter side, researchers at the University of Alberta have not stopped their research on MINOCA. They still continue their research to investigate why MINOCA attacks occur, and have identified several possible causes.

One of the reasons found is an inflammation of the heart. Researchers found such an inflammation may cause tiny tears in the arteries that could only be detected using special equipment.

Dr Sharma points out that the human heart can be powerfully affected by emotions. He says, “MINOCA can also be caused by ‘broken heart’ syndrome, also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.” This stress-induced heart condition which can be potentially fatal, occurs almost mainly in women.

Can people minimize their risk of MINOCA?

Dr Sharma offers very simple advice, especially to women, on how to minimize the risk of MINOCA. This is primarily the golden advice dispensed by all doctors, i.e., “Quit smoking, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get stress under control.”

MINOCA is often overlooked or ignored

As a MINOCA attack is not caused by plaque blockages or ruptures, many doctors do not take it seriously. It has often been seen as a benign (not serious) condition.  Patients usually go home without any form of treatment or advice on change of lifestyle.

However, according to Dr Kevin Bainey, a cardiologist from the University of Alberta, about five percent of patients in Canada have another attack or die of a heart attack a year later. Dr Bainey said many MINOCA causes that are found, do respond to targeted therapies.

Heart attack signs often missed in women

It should be noted that women are more likely to inform their doctor about heart attack pain which is not in the chest. They are more likely to complain of stomach pain, heart palpitations, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Not all heart attacks are related to chest pain, so these non-chest pain symptoms may often be misdiagnosed, most commonly as acid reflux.

Another leading cardiologist, Dr Nieca Goldberg, has this advice for ladies experiencing such symptoms. She advises her female patients and others, especially those with current health issues, “to discuss their cardiac symptoms and potential risk factors with (their) primary doctor, cardiologist or even their gynaecologist”.

Dr Goldberg also says, “They need to learn the symptoms of heart attack, get a checkup, and discuss their heart disease risk before having the symptoms themselves. The idea is to prevent the first heart attack — not just recognize it when it is happening.”

Conclusion: We hope today’s article on MINOCA has enlightened our readers, especially the ladies. Do consult your doctor if you feel unwell or have any symptoms mentioned above, especially those with current health issues. It is better to know about a MINOCA attack, rather than be ignorant about it.

By Aaron
6th January 2021 23:00

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