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New Medical Discoveries ... Dr. Davis Comments
If the means to turn off heart disease are already within our grasp, why don’t most doctors tell you about it? Surely, if there were some medicine or health practice that could stop heart disease in its tracks, he/she would tell you about it!
Think about that for a moment: Coronary heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, and most physicians do not know how to screen a seemingly well person for hidden heart disease. You may, in fact, know of friends or acquaintances who passed their annual physical exam from their family physician, only to die or have a heart attack shortly afterwards.
The fact is, the latest research and discoveries regarding the role of factors beyond cholesterol in heart attacks is so new that most practicing physicians and cardiologists have not yet been introduced to these revolutionary new concepts. They continue to rely on the tests they know and are familiar with - stress testing and cholesterol panels. Contrary to popular opinion – including that held by many physicians – stress and cholesterol testing are NOT effective means of screening people without symptoms for the presence of coronary heart disease.
The Old Tests Were Wrong . . . Dr. Davis Comments
This is such an important issue that it bears repeating: Stress testing and simple cholesterol testing are NOT effective methods of uncovering hidden heart disease.
Then why are these tests performed? Are they worthless?
In truth, these tests can be useful diagnostic tools, but only when used appropriately. People who go to the hospital with symptoms, particularly chest pain, can benefit by having a stress test to reproduce the symptoms. The physician needs to distinguish an impending heart attack from the pain of stomach ulcer, pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the lungs from pneumonia), esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), gallstones, etc. If chest pain is provoked by walking on the treadmill during a stress test, this is suspicious for heart disease. The treadmill test (or a pharmacological equivalent) is often combined with a method of imaging blood flow to the heart muscle such as thallium, or methods to image heart muscle strength such as echocardiography (ultrasound). If there is poor blood flow to a specific segment of the heart’s muscle, then a blockage in a coronary artery is present and your chest pain likely represents warning to a future heart attack.
Similarly, if you have high cholesterol you may be at higher risk for a heart attack. But if you look at the average LDL cholesterol of someone who has had a heart attack and someone who has not, they would be virtually identical, a toss of the coin!
Using stress testing and cholesterol testing to detect hidden heart disease in someone without symptoms is unlikely to uncover anything. This is because the majority of future heart attacks victims are walking around feeling just fine, yet have silent plaque in their coronary arteries. Heart attacks in these people are caused by “rupture” of a “minor” plaque, one that may be causing only 20 or 30% blockage, doesn’t block blood flow, and is therefore undetectable by any stress test. Plaque rupture is a process that develops within minutes -- stress and cholesterol testing will NOT anticipate this event. What we really want to know is how much plaque is present and what other risks, beyond simple cholesterol, exist in a well-appearing person.
Plaque is the Best Measure . . . Dr. Davis Comments
The latest research confirms that plaque, and the multitude of factors beyond simple LDL cholesterol that lead to plaque, are the best predictors of who is most likely to have a heart attack.
The best news is, if you track and control plaque and its newly discovered risk factors you have an excellent chance of preventing, and even reversing, heart disease. At Track Your Plaque, we do it every day. Take control of your plaque, your health, and your future. Join our community. Share in the cutting-edge science and world-wide collaboration to prevent and reverse heart disease!