Imagine having access to a crystal ball that could provide warning of an impending heart attack early enough that the future could be changed. Although no such crystal ball exists, researchers believe a newly developed CT scan analysis may have the same, potentially life-saving, effect.
The scan in question is able to detect inflammation in the blood vessels before hardening and irreversible plaque buildup occurs. In doing so, this analysis may enable cardiologists to help their patients prevent heart attacks before they become imminent concerns. Essentially, the test may give doctors and their patients the ability to change the future, so to say.
While current CT methods can provide some insights about heart health, the new diagnostic tool takes routine computerized tomography (CT) scans to a whole new level. The tool is designed to allow for the measurement of changes in the size of fat cells. This, in turn, enables doctors to more readily determine if potentially deadly inflammation is occurring.
Researchers say that roughly half of all heart attacks occur when minor plaques in heart vessels rupture. These vessels are generally quite inflamed, but may not have experienced significant narrowing. At present, there is no test available that can identify this inflammation prior to major plaque buildup and narrowing. The new analysis is hoped to change that.
While more study is necessary to determine the viability of the diagnostic tool, researchers are encouraged by their findings so far. With more than 750,000 Americans at risk for heart attacks in the coming year, having the ability to catch problems sooner could save a significant number of lives. It is estimated that one out of four deaths in the United States is attributed to heart disease.
People who are concerned about their heart health should make appointments with their healthcare providers. Making healthy lifestyle changes, such as working exercise into the routine and eating a balanced diet, may help prevent the development of heart disease or assist in stopping it in its tracks.