House Calls

House Calls Started This Year

House calls are meant for patients who are temporarily or permanently home bound, or for other good reasons can't make it into the office.

To schedule a house call: Tel (203) 853-1919; email

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Prevent a heart attack

Heart attacks continue to be the number one killer in the US. Heart attacks are also one of the major strains on the national and personal health budgets. It is essential that you know your risks for the development of heart disease and take the necessary steps to decrease the chance of a premature heart attack.

Heart attacks, the major manifestation of coronary heart disease (or atherosclerosis, plaque), continues to be the leading cause of mortality in the US, and will continue to be so as longevity increases, and as the number of senior citizens increases. And, yes, many of us feel that we know what puts us at risk for a heart attack, and what we have to do in order to decrease that risk. But do we really know enough? And do we do enough?

Most of us know the detrimental role of smoking, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, and hypertension. Many of us also know of the role of cholesterol, including the “good cholesterol” (HDL) and the “bad cholesterol” (LDL), or even triglycerides. Certainly we know that it’s better to be born with “good genes.”

But what about the more recently recognized risks factors and tests to better detect a potential heart problem early, when there’s still time to delay or prevent a heart attack?

Look at one cholesterol related example: We now can look not only at the total LDL and HDL, but also at their respective subclasses (These are not routinely done unless your physician specifically asks for them). There are at least two important LDL patterns, “predominantly small particles LDL,” also known as B Pattern, and “predominantly large particles LDL,” known as A Pattern. Pattern B is the dangerous one, and it’s the one that can usually be managed by lowering dietary fat intake. In contrast, Pattern A individuals may not benefit, or even become worse with severe dietary fat restriction. Similarly, there are other subclasses and markers, each of which has its own significance and therapeutic implications.

Inflammation of the coronary arteries accelerates the formation of coronary plaque. Cardio-CRP is one such marker of inflammation, and helps identify those at risk of a first and subsequent heart attack, even when the cholesterol risk is low.

Newer blood tests, such as the extensive profile offered by the Berkeley HeartLab, (partially on the basis of technology developed at Berkeley Unversity) or the VAP profile (by Atherotech, Inc.) go much further into analyzing inflammatory markers, cholesterol subclasses, and the benefit effect of certain drugs in the management of cardiac risk factors.

Early detection of plaque formation has become easier too. We’re all familiar with the common treadmill stress test, stress ECHO’s, nuclear Thallium or MIBI test, or even cardiac catheterization. But newer tools have evolved. A modern “fast cardiac CT scan” in experienced hands can show calcium in existing plaque, and thus estimate the degree of atherosclerosis. Computerized coronary angiography, which is only minimally invasive, can even better assess the extent of plaque formation. A carotid ultrasound, with particular attention to inflammation (usually reported as “intimal thickening”) may be useful in risk assessment.

Many other developments are just below the horizon. However, an important problem hindering the use of many new techniques is coverage by the health insurance companies as well as Medicare. They traditionally take years before paying for some of these very important tests.

Regardless, we’ve come a long way in our ability to identify the risk of coronary heart disease, and to detect it early. At our practice, early detection and prevention is a cornerstone. Information is a powerful tool, become informed! We’re here to help you live a longer, healthier life…

No comments:

Post a Comment

Twitter / Dr. Staw