Protect Your Heart: Heart Screening Can Be a Life SaverJan 31, 2021 09:17AM ● By Julie Peterson
Experts are now realizing that some key warning signs for early detection of heart and vascular disease have been missed. Fortunately, the field of cardiology is shifting to preventive testing earlier in life. With several cutting-edge diagnostics available locally, better outcomes can be expected for those at risk.
Blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) have long been the numbers to track for heart health. But a 2009 study by Sachdeva, et al., published in the American Heart Journal, looked at more than 130,000 patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease and found that more than 50 percent of them had normal cholesterol levels. It turns out that cholesterol, for one, is not necessarily useful in predicting cardiac events.
Yale R. Smith, MD, at The Center for Anti-Aging Aesthetic and Rejuvenation Medicine (CAARM), says that while it was traditionally thought that narrowing of the arteries was to blame for cardiovascular events, inflammation has become more of a focus.
The PULS test, a simple blood test offered at CAARM, looks at inflammatory biomarkers for the body’s immune system response to arterial injury and provides a chronological heart age and risk of a cardiovascular event. It is recommended for patients in their 40s.
Also at CAARM, SpectraCell’s Micronutrient Test, analyzes how well the body utilizes vitamins, minerals, amino/fatty acids, antioxidants and metabolites. “Strong evidence suggests that subtle vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant deficiencies can contribute to degenerative processes such as arthritis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease,” states Smith.
Further, a genetic testing tool, CardiaX, detects and interprets genetic variants that are associated with increased predisposition for heart conditions. The resulting information can help reverse certain heart conditions by providing an incentive for patients to make lifestyle changes.
It turns out that cholesterol, for one, is not necessarily useful in predicting cardiac events.
Morgan Kane, at Treasure Coast Heart and Vascular (TCH&V), explains that it’s not just the region around the heart to be concerned with. “Arteries run throughout the body, bringing oxygenated blood to the extremities.” Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) involves a blockage that restricts blood flow to the legs, which can cause pain and cramping.
“You can identify if the patient is at risk with an Ankle-Brachial Index test to determine if blood is flowing to the extremities the way that it should,” Kane says. The ABI test is a non-invasive blood pressure analysis that can detect potential PAD. Studies showed that a low ABI index was correlated with an increase in the occurrence of major cardiovascular events in elderly patients.
In addition, doppler studies use ultrasound or high frequency sound waves to assess blood flow in major arteries and veins to detect abnormalities that may not be evident to the patient but could be indicators of serious problems in the future.
What many people don’t realize is that the arterial system is a pressurized system and as the heart pumps it increases the pressure within elastic arteries and forces blood to the extremities. But the venous system, the second part of the circulatory system, brings blood back to the lungs to get re-oxygenated and then back to the heart so it can pump it out again.
“The venous system is not pressurized, it is a mechanical system,” says Kane. “You have one-way valves that line the veins which brings blood back to the heart. So, the ‘heart’ of the venous system is the calf muscle. You have to move and walk in order for the system to work.” Therefore, even varicose veins can be a warning sign that the circulatory system needs evaluation and lifestyle changes may be in order.
“The earlier a person is diagnosed the better,” says Kane, pointing to the ease of making dietary and exercise changes as compared to potentially needing surgery if disease progresses.
Dr. Smith agrees. “If you can show someone the future, it’s a wake-up call to make lifestyle changes to increase longevity.”
To connect with practitioners in this article click on the business name to refer to their listings: The Center for Anti-Aging Aesthetic and Rejuvenation Medicine (CAARM); Treasure Coast Heart and Vascular (TCH&V).