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What can I do to see if I am risk for heart disease?

 

Cecilia Hirsch, MD, is a cardiologist at the CardioVascular Institute of North Colorado in Greeley Colo.

Question: There is a history of heart disease in my family.  What can I do to determine if I’m at risk for heart disease also?

Answer: You are right to be concerned. Each year, heart attacks kill more than half a million people, and approximately half of these deaths occur suddenly, without prior symptoms. However, if the risk factors leading to a heart attack are identified early, 85 percent of sudden heart attacks may be prevented.

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death among American adults. Seemingly healthy individuals often exhibit no symptoms. They may have few, if any, risk factors, average cholesterol levels, and show normal results on a stress or exercise treadmill test. For these individuals, the first and only sign of clogged arteries is a heart attack.

A simple test called a CT Heart Score can help determine your risk for having a heart attack and enable you to modify your lifestyle or undergo further testing.  The scan provides valuable information, enabling your physician to assess the next steps for treatment. If you are at low risk, your physician may discuss lifestyle modifications, such as exercise, diet and smoking cessation.  If you are at high risk, your physician may recommend new medications or additional testing to determine the extent of your heart disease and what further steps need to be taken to help improve your heart health.

The screening is recommended for men over age 35 and women over age 40 with or without risk factors for coronary heart disease. Discuss the CT Heart Score with your primary care physician to determine how it would benefit you. 
 
Reviewed December 2010

Page Last Modified: 12/22/2010
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