American Heart Month Stories Leave
SHAPE Task Force Both Encouraged and Concerned

Sensational stories attract attention, but true meaning of “prevention” could be misunderstood

HOUSTON, February 7, 2011 – SHAPE, The Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication
( ,a nonprofit organization that promotes early detection and preventive intervention to eradicate heart attacks, today urged journalists working on American Heart Month stories to update their advice for how apparently healthy individuals can discover hidden heart attack risk.

“We welcome the increased attention that cardiovascular disease is getting and believe adult men and women can benefit from increased understanding of hidden heart attack risk,” said Dr. PK Shah, chairman of the SHAPE Scientific Board and director, Division of Cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Understandably, the media gravitates toward sensational stories involving near death experiences, but we encourage those crafting stories to make note of recent scientific and technological developments of preventive cardiology that make it possible to more accurately assess a seemingly healthy individual’s hidden heart risk so they can get the preventive treatment they need.”

The SHAPE Task Force’s 1st SHAPE Guideline, published in 2006, encourages physicians to implement screening for subclinical (asymptomatic) atherosclerosis (cholesterol plaque build-up) in men age 45 and older, and women age 55 and older who are at risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. SHAPE recommends two scientifically proven non-invasive atherosclerosis tests: coronary artery calcification scoring (CACS) by a computed tomography (CT) scan and carotid artery intima-media thickness (CIMT) scanning by ultrasound. These tests have improved our ability to assess near-term heart attack risk in otherwise seemingly healthy individuals so that timely preventive strategies can be implemented.

“Once these scientifically proven tests are widely adopted, we estimate that thousands of first heart attacks could be prevented and thousands of lives could be saved,” said Dr. Erling Falk, chief of the SHAPE Task Force Editorial Committee. “Now that costs of these tests have come down and we have the support of organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology Foundation, we anticipate the pace of adoption will accelerate significantly.”

The SHAPE Task Force referred to the recent ABC special, “A Matter of Life and Death,” during which Late Night Host, David Letterman, urged viewers to take advantage of available technology.

“Mr. Letterman said, ‘There’s no reason why a man or woman in this day and age should unexpectedly drop dead of a heart attack,’ which is 100 percent correct and a message we hope is repeated in the media as well as in doctor’s offices around the world,” said Dr. Morteza Naghavi, executive chairman of the SHAPE Task Force. “Tragically, very few people without symptoms are ever advised to have an atherosclerosis test and therefore hundreds of thousands of men and women unknowingly remain a ticking time bomb waiting for a sudden heart attack to strike.”

Most first heart attacks are caused by hidden buildup of atherosclerotic plaque in coronary arteries that can rupture, triggering a blood clot leading to abrupt blockage of blood flow to the heart. Traditional methods of assessing heart attack risk such as cholesterol, blood pressure, EKGs and stress tests, while useful, have proven insufficient to accurately identify heart attack risk.

The SHAPE Task Force is currently finalizing work on an update of the SHAPE Guideline to incorporate the findings of recent scientific studies that confirmed the value of CACS and CIMT. These studies include Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC) and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, funded by the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation and the German Foundation of Research.

The SHAPE Task Force includes the following:

Morteza Naghavi, M.D. – Executive Chairman
PK Shah, M.D. – Chair of Scientific Board
Erling Falk, M.D., Ph.D. – Chief of Editorial Committee

SHAPE Task Force Members:

Daniel S. Berman, M.D., Matthew J. Budoff, M.D., Michael H. Davidson, M.D., Jim Ehrlich, M.D., Raimund Erbel, M.D., Erling Falk, M.D., Ph.D., Steven B. Feinstein, M.D., Kirk Geter, D.P.M., Craig Hartley, Ph.D., Harvey S. Hecht, M.D., Howard Hodis, M.D., Sanjay Kaul, M.D., M.P.H., Iftikhar J. Kullo, M.D., Daniel Lane, M.D., Ph.D., Marge Lovell, R.N., Ralph Metcalfe, Ph.D., Tasneem Z. Naqvi, M.D., Morteza Naghavi, M.D., Paolo Raggi, M.D., George P. Rodgers, M.D., PK Shah, M.D., David Spence, M.D., H. Robert Superko, M.D., Henrik Sillesen, M.D., Ph.D., Pierre-Jean Touboul, M.D.

SHAPE Task Force Advisors:

Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D., Leslee Shaw, Ph.D.
SHAPE Task Force II Executive Coordinator: Jeff Fine, M.S., Ph.D.