Doctors: Vascular age test can provide information on heart disease risk

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by Kevin Reece/KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on June 11, 2012 at 5:36 PM

HOUSTON--It’s a $200 test that doctors at Methodist Hospital say can give you piece of mind, or ammunition for a medical plan of attack, if you have concerns about heart disease.

Vascular Age Screening uses ultrasound to measure the thickness of the carotid artery in a patient’s neck. The painless 15-minute procedure provides doctors with an estimated thickness of the artery wall which, when compared to medical studies, gives an indication of an artery’s age. The more narrow an artery has become the "older" it is considered to be.

Methodist patient Pat Williamson did not get the age she wanted. The 55-year-old Houston resident with a family history of high cholesterol had the vascular screening conducted Monday to see if her diet and exercise regimen are working to lower her numbers and the potential threat of coronary disease. Unfortunately the screening indicated a vascular age of 72.

"Very shocking," Williamson said after the screening and consultation with Dr. Vijay Nambi.  "They’re a lot higher than I thought, or older I guess. I didn’t think it would be quite that bad."

"The thickness of your arteries is a little more than we would expect for somebody your age," said Nambi who said the information can be used to further adjust her diet and medication.

"You are thinking do I need to get my cholesterol further down? Do I need to start medication? Do I need to further intensify or decrease my cholesterol further," said Nambi. "That’s the population in whom such tests could have some benefit."

"Hopefully improve it," added Williamson. "Or at least I don’t know if it can be improved, but not progress any worse."

Methodist recommends heart and vascular screenings for men between the ages of 45 and 76 and women between 55 and 76 who are considered "intermediate risk" for heart disease. 

Intermediate risk includes patients with a family history of high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and patients who are smokers or who have diabetes. 

The vascular screenings can be covered by insurance plans but are not covered by Medicare.

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