3 Heart Tests You Don't Know About

FRESNO, Calif.

Wayne Davis exercises every day to stay in shape.

"I have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol," Davis told Ivanhoe. His cholesterol was off the charts.

"My LDL, undesirable cholesterol, was above 250," Davis said.

It should be below 100. Wayne has taken statins for years, but Vijay Nambi, M.D., suggested something new: a calcium score -- done with a simple CT scan of the heart.

"It gives you the amount of calcium build-up in your heart arteries," Dr. Nambi, an assistant professor, section of atherosclerosis and vascular medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the Center for Cardiovascular Prevention at Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston, told Ivanhoe.

Calcified plaque can show up 20 years before a heart attack. Another test worth having: advanced lipid testing, which measures the concentration of bad cholesterol particles in your blood.

"Why it's not routinely offered is it's not found its way into our national guidelines yet," Dr. Nambi said.

Dr. Christie Ballantyne says it measures a certain type of hereditary cholesterol, called LPA, and more. High levels boost your heart attack risk by 15-percent.

"If you're having lots of heart attacks and strokes in your family, I think it's very worthwhile to know this," Dr. Ballantyne, chief, section of atherosclerosis and vascular medicine and chief, section of cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine and Center for Cardiovascular Prevention and the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center, told Ivanhoe.

Also, consider a carotid intimal medial thickness test. This 15-minute ultrasound of the neck arteries can detect abnormal thickening, which may signal early heart disease.

"If you know this is the number one cause of death, and it's mostly preventable, of course it makes sense to get as much information as you can," Dr. Ballantyne said.

Davis's calcium score was over 1200. A normal score is zero. He has quadrupled his statin dose and knows he is healthier for it.

Genetic testing can also give information on heart disease and heart attack risk, but both doctors we spoke to said it's not quite ready for prime time yet. They do believe, however, genetic testing could play a significant role in the future of heart disease testing.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at mhitchcock@ivanhoe.com.

Vijay Nambi, M.D.
Baylor College of Medicine
(713) 798-5800

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