MINOCA, The Mysterious Heart Attack That Affects Many Women


A new study shows that a type of heart attack became more common in women and it keeps on rising. It’s called myocardial infarction with non-obstructive coronary arteries (MINOCA), meaning that the patients don’t have obstructed arteries when they get a heart attack. Obstructed arteries are the main cause of a heart attack, making MINOCA a mysterious condition.

Researchers from the University of Alberta have just published their long-term study on finding what causes MINOCA. You can find the paper in the International Journal of Cardiology.

Kevin Bainey is the leader of the research and the interventional cardiologist at the University of Alberta. He and his team followed almost 36,000 patients over 12 years. According to Dr. Bainey, they discovered that 6% of the participants of the study had a heart attack without having obstructed arteries.

“Historically, MINOCA has been seen as a benign condition, and patients are commonly sent home without any treatment or lifestyle advice. Yet we found that after one year’s time, 5 per cent of patients either had another heart attack or died of a heart attack.”

The Odds Get Worse Over Time

Compared to the 5% of patients with MINOCA, 9% of the ones that had a blocked artery had another heart attack or died after a year. Dr. Bainey highlights that it’s important to find what causes MINOCA and how it can be treated to prevent another heart attack:

“Not only did we find that prognosis only worsens over time, after five years, 11 per cent of MINOCA patients were likely to die or have a second heart attack compared with 16 per cent of heart patients with blocked arteries.”

The study also argues that patients with MINOCA are “downplayed,” because the severity of a heart attack is lower. Often, they’re sent home without treatment. However, Dr. Bainey says that it’s essential patients know about their condition and how to prevent a second heart attack. They must have a healthy lifestyle – a healthy diet, and they must exercise.

The study found that MINOCA patients are more likely to be women, unlike heart attack which is more common in men. Dr. Bainey said that:

“We found roughly 25 per cent of common heart attack patients are female, whereas 50 per cent of MINOCA patients are female.”

Researchers have found some of the causes of MINOCA:

The artery can have a tiny tear (SCAD – spontaneous coronary artery disruption), there could be a small clot not identified by a coronary angiogram, inflammation of the heart muscle, or heart muscle dysfunction induced by stress.


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