How to Prevent a Silent Killer
According to the most recent data from the Framingham Heart Study, 1 in 4 people will suffer a heart attack in their lifetime. For a portion of those patients the first symptom will be death. In men, the risk is even more heightened as they are twice as likely to suffer Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) as are women – with the same risk factor profiles. This clearly indicates a need for urgency in the medical community to address this finding.
A trend is emerging, though, which addresses the unique set of challenges and improves the outcome of patients with asymptomatic heart disease.
Agatston is a preventative Cardiologist based in Miami and a pioneer of the Cardiac CT Scan.
The most fascinating trend in Cardiology today could mean less job security for Cardiovascular specialists in the future but they could not be happier. Preventive cardiology is a sub-specialty that focuses on preventing or managing cardiovascular disease. It relies on the earliest possible diagnosis, treatment and control of heart disease.
Treat Risk Factors Instead of Symptoms
One tactic physicians are using to expose this silent killer is to treat risk factors as symptoms. If clusters of 3 or more risk factors exist in a patient the practitioner can then order additional tests. Typically, these tests would only be ordered if a patient presented with symptoms such as chest pain or left arm pain.
Typical Risk Factors
- Men > 45 years; Women >55 years
- High blood pressure
- Smoking history
- Familial heart disease
- Renal disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Diabetes mellitus
- Sedentary lifestyle including obesity
Use Early Diagnostics
Non-invasive tests can be used to detect early damage to certain organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. This early detection helps recognize patients with greater risks for having existing heart disease. In addition, more advanced tests are available. These look at proteins or more specifically, the proteomes, that have been effected by disease process. As discussed in an earlier article about proteomics, scientists now understand that there is a correlation between disease and changes in proteins. A few advanced tests that might be used to identify cardiac damage, even prior to onset of symptoms include:
- High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein this test exposes systemic inflammation in the body.
- Lipid Profiles and Lipoprotein this is an exhaustive cholesterol profile.
- Cardiac enzymes detect early damage to the heart muscle by observing the presence of specific protein in the blood.
There are also non-invasive advanced imaging options for early diagnosis, including Stress Echocardiogram, Cardiac CT Scan and Cardiac MRI.
Management and Control
Management is the next phase of preventive cardiology. Once the patient has been diagnosed many treatment options exist. These range from interventional measures to less invasive maintenance and control with a variety of medications, antioxidants, and antilipidemics. Lifestyle changes are at the heart (pun intended) of all preventative measures. Behavior modifications such as diet, exercise and smoking cessation are integral to holding heart disease at bay and enjoying a productive healthy life.
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