Written by Myles Spar
Posted on: February 13, 2019
Cardiovascular disease is responsible for approximately one in three deaths in the United States, with around 2,200 Americans dying from it every day. I’m very familiar with these sobering statistics, which is why I wrote here about the top 5 foods for heart attack and stroke prevention and here about how basic diet changes can affect heart health and the activities that can strengthen your heart. But even with these powerful lifestyle modifications that can reduce your risk of disease, I also know it’s important to assess your actual risk. Here are the top tests for heart attack prevention that could save your life.
CT Calcium Scan (aka Calcium Score)
This is number one – because it shows if you actually have plaque in your heart arteries. Even a treadmill stress test may not be able to detect atherosclerotic plaque, a combination of calcium, cholesterol and scar tissue. As cardiologist and The South Beach Diet author Arthur Agatston, MD, told Everyday Health, these soft plaques can act like “ticking time bombs” that can explode without warning, causing heart attacks and sudden death. But even when these plaque explosions don’t lead to heart attacks, they form a scar that eventually becomes calcified. A CT calcium scan can detect this calcified plaque, which is a warning sign of coronary artery disease.
Advanced Lipid Panel
Regular lipid panels barely scratch the surface when it comes to your cholesterol profile. To really know if you need to manage cholesterol with medications, supplements or diet, you need to know more about these potentially risky particles:
- low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol particle number – the “bad” kind that can lead to clogged arteries
- high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol particle number – the “good” cholesterol that helps carry away LDL cholesterol
- Lp (a) – the type of lipoprotein that is perhaps the most dangerous, and can lead to a heart attack even if you have normal cholesterol (and the majority of heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol).
C-reactive Protein Test
Heart attacks happen when there is plaque and when that plaque is INFLAMED. Even if you have high cholesterol, it’s not as dangerous if you have low inflammation – and vice versa. The best measure of inflammation as it relates to heart disease is CRP. CRP is a protein that plays a role in your body’s inflammatory response, and research suggests a link between high CRP levels and heart attack risk. In one 2002 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, C-reactive protein tests proved even more effective than LDL cholesterol testing at predicting cardiovascular risk.
This amino acid is particularly dangerous. Homocysteine is a natural byproduct of protein metabolism that significantly raises your risk of plaque and heart disease. Blood levels of homocysteine are generally highest in people who consume lots of animal protein or have one or two bad MTHFR genes. Checking your level of homocysteine can give you an indication of your overall risk for heart disease and thus help you better understand the best course of action for prevention. A higher risk factor may justify taking more immediate, substantial measures.
Because I know these heart health tests are so important for my patients, I have made them all available in my heart health program. If you’re in California follow the link below to schedule now. If you can’t do our program, ask your doctor about them. I KNOW these could save your life or a loved one’s.
About Myles Spar, MD
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.