This Test May Soon Predict Heart Attack Risk

Researchers have found a simple way to predict a patient’s risk of heart attack.

Heart attacks, aka the “silent killer,” commonly sneak up on people because of their subtle symptoms. Too often, people ignore the warnings, thinking it may be indigestion or muscle strain. Over one million people in the United States experience heart attacks each year, which statistically translates to a heart attack every 40 seconds. Physicians are currently limited in the ways they can assess their patients’ relative heart attack risk, which is why a proactive and preventative detection system is so important. The good news is that researchers have identified important risk markers of a heart attack that can be measured with a non-invasive predictive test that uses equipment already in place at many healthcare facilities.

A team of researchers at the University of Oxford in England and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio published their study in The Lancet, explaining the use of computed tomography (CT) to predict cardiovascular risk. The detection system, known as the Fat Attenuation Index (FAI), uses standard computed tomography (CT) scanning technology to measure plaque and detect risk. The researchers found that dangerous plaques that build up and become inflamed give off a chemical signal that can alert physicians to an impending heart attack. Dr. Milind Desai from the Cleveland Clinic of Cardiovascular Medicine reports to Healthline, “This new marker is strongly associated with downstream death related to heart attacks.” The test provides an accessible and easy-to-understand score on a patient’s risk of having a heart attack, which gives the doctor and patient an idea of the risk and what steps they do or do not need to take. The FAI technology is an exciting new frontier for cardiologists, but it’s important to note that it serves as predictive technology, not preventative. However, an abnormal FAI score can be very helpful in kick-starting important changes in patient’s lives. Prevention is vital and could save the lives of many who may have underlying health issues.

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