3 heart tests you don't know about

April 13, 2011 9:45:07 AM PDT
Are you getting all the tests you need to protect your heart? Probably not.

Though cholesterol, family history, and blood pressure are all useful in predicting heart health, everyone has heard at least one story of someone suffering a heart attack without any of the usual predictors. It turns out those useful factors are actually just risk factors-- they don't give a measure of how healthy your heart is. In order to determine whether or not arteries are actually diseased, increasing numbers of doctors are recommending more technologically advanced tests. (SOURCE: www.webmd.com)

CALCIUM SCORE TEST: The calcium score test is done with a simple CT Scan of the heart and shows the amount of calcium build-up (or calcified plaque) in the arteries. This calcified plaque can show up in a test up to twenty years before a heart attack, making the calcium score test an extremely useful tool in determining heart health. A calcium score can range from zero to over 400; any score over 100 represents a higher risk of heart disease. However, people start-accumulating plaque in their arteries at a very young age-- by age 30, most people have some plaque build-up. Calcification of the plaque usually happens later, making a calcium score test less useful for younger people, since you can have plaque but not calcium.

ADVANCED LIPID TESTING: An advanced lipid test measures the concentration of bad cholesterol in your blood. While a standard cholesterol panel can give you most of the information you need, advanced lipid tests measure other types of bad cholesterol, such as Lp(a). Lp(a) is a type of hereditary cholesterol; high levels of Lp(a) nearly triple your risk of heart attack.

CAROTID INTIMAL MEDIAL THICKNESS TEST: A fifteen-minute ultrasound allows doctors to detect thickening of the arteries in your neck that carry blood to your brain. Arterial thickening represents plaque build up-- more plaque build-up (thicker arteries) means higher risk for a heart attack or heart disease. Studies have shown that if the amount of thickening of your arteries is in the 75th percentile or higher for your age group, you have a higher risk of heart disease, as well as stroke. The drawback to this test is that it tells you about your arteries rather than giving you specific information about your heart. (SOURCE: www.webmd.com) THE FUTURE: In the future, doctors believe genetic testing will become more prevalent and play a significant part in heart disease testing. These tests will look for genetic variations that trigger heart disease and will be done via blood sample. (SOURCE: www.cardiosmart.org)

? For More Information, Contact:

Vijay Nambi, MD
Baylor College of Medicine
(713) 798 -5800

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