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CT Heart Scan Risks - Safe Screening Alternatives

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, February 04, 2009 8:36 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Heart Attack, Heart Disease, CT Angiography, Protecting Your Family


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ diagram of a heart attack/ author: U.S. Govt.

Most people associate heart disease with high cholesterol, hypertension and a heavy smoking habit. But, the truth is, even those people who have none of these risk factors still need to worry.

More than a third of the people that have dropped dead from a heart attack did not have any classic warning signs. But, seeking a high-tech CT heart scan or coronary CT angiography (CTA) - a heart-imaging test used to see whether fatty or calcium deposits have built up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle - may not be the solution.

A newly released study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), finds that radiation from the test can increase cancer risk. And many radiologists don't employ enough protective measure to reduce exposure to radiation.

The results underscore a sobering reality: There is no simple or perfect way to predict a future heart attack – especially for those people that don’t experience symptoms associated with heart disease including shortness of breath and chest pain.

Experts spoke with U.S. News and recommend a seven-step approach for assessing your own risk, which is outlined below:

1. Framingham Risk Assessment: Although basic, it is a good starting point. A Framingham risk score can estimate a person’s 10-year risk for “hard” coronary heart disease outcomes (myocardial infarction and coronary death). The tool is designed to estimate risk in adults aged 20 and older who do not have heart disease or diabetes.

But, Roger Blumenthal, a cardiologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, says this assessment is “relatively crude” and often misses individuals of all ages who have dangerous underlying heart disease.

2. High Sensitivity C-reactive Protein: A blood test that measures a marker for inflammation which is thought to be involved in plaque formation. Many doctors do this blood test combined with the Framingham risk factors to give you what is known as a Reynolds Risk Score.

3. Waist-Hip Ratio: Past studies have found waist-to-hip ratio (WTHR), not body mass index (BMI), is the best obesity measure for assessing a person's risk of heart attack.

4. Body Mass Index: BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weigh that applies to men and women. Any measurement over 25 indicates the person is overweight and at a moderately increased risk of heart disease.

5. Speed of Menopause Transition: Menopause itself does not appear to raise the risk of heart disease in women, but those who transition rapidly have more thickness in their carotid artery, an indirect measure that suggests plaque is accumulating in the arteries of the heart.

6. Images of your Arteries: There are certain cardiac imaging tests that can provide more clues about a person’s risk of heart attack. The most benign test uses ultrasound to measure the thickness in the walls of the carotid artery in the neck.

7. Listen to your Body: Above all else, listen to your body. If you are having heart symptoms, palpitations, shortness of breaths or chest discomfort, don’t ignore them.

Every 20 seconds a person experiences a heart attack, with a heart attack death occurring every minute. In other words, according to the American Heart Association, more than 1.2 million people suffer from a heart attack in the U.S. each year, with 38% of those cases resulting in death.

An estimated 300,000 people die each year from a heart attack prior to seeking medical attention. Nearly 90-95% of people who are able to reach a hospital alive, will survive. Overall, about one third of the people who suffer a heart attack will die. #

1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by arron
Friday, February 06, 2009 2:22 PM EST

heart disease isnt that bad right

Comments for this article are closed.

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