Individual Risk Assessment
Many tests for heart disease are performed after the patient has shown symptoms such as chest pain or an actual heart attack. By then, it may be too late. There are now excellent cardiovascular imaging tests that look directly at blood vessels to detect and quantify atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) and individualize risk assessment.
In addition, there are new blood tests that can more accurately look at cholesterol particles to understand the nature of your risk, help explain atherosclerosis in vessels, and allow your doctor to make personalized decisions on treatment and lifestyle modifications.
We can now measure the levels of inflammation in vessels, which can help determine if your plaque is “hot” or vulnerable to rupture, a strong risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Despite much talk about preventive medicine and the benefits of catching disease at an early stage to reduce costs, the reality is that the current healthcare system is mostly reactive-focused on treatment, not prevention. Often, people must ask for and pay out of pocket for some of the best screening tests such as carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) and coronary artery calcium scoring (CACS) to protect their cardiovascular health. But it’s much more cost effective to be proactive by spending a few dollars on comprehensive preventive testing. The huge costs of having a heart attack or stroke (including indirect costs such as disability and loss of income, as well as direct hospital costs) can overwhelm most families.