For all Americans that have a heart attack, the very first symptom will be either sudden death or a full heart attack and nearly half of first heart attack patients will die from that event. Despite all of the recent scientific advances, your doctor’s approach to accurately predict risk for heart attack may be outdated and leave you vulnerable.
Heart attack prevention efforts have not been successful to date. Relying on risk factors to predict heart attacks such as family history, high blood pressure, obesity, and even cholesterol, are not enough. Millions of dollars are spent promoting the importance of cholesterol to prevent heart attacks. While maintaining a healthy cholesterol level is important, having a normal cholesterol score does not mean you are not at risk for a heart attack!
New noninvasive screening tests allow doctors to look inside your arteries for blockages that cause heart attacks. These images are acquired from outside the body in minutes and may save your life! Ask your doctor if you need to be screened for atherosclerosis. Learn about Coronary Calcium Scoring or Carotid IMT Testing, or click on the link to find a SHAPE Certified Medical Provider in your area who fully understands and offers these lifesaving tests.
What is Atherosclerosis?
It is the major cause of heart attacks, some strokes, aneurysms, and peripheral artery disease. Our arteries are much more than simple tubes. They are a well organized system that supplies the organs and tissues of the body with the blood they need to extract sufficient amounts of nutrients and oxygen.
Arteries also regulate blood flow and pressure through a complicated system of hormones and flow-sensitive receptors. They work as a first alarm system for local infections and injury, as well as regulate the subsequent repair process.
In the best of all worlds, the artery would manage these challenges quite well, keeping its wall thin and elastic. However, with the conditions facing the artery wall in most of us today, with a continuous exposure to high levels of potentially toxic lipids and other factors, fulfilling these tasks may come with a high price: the development of inflammation, scarring and disruption of the inner layer of the artery. This disease is called atherosclerosis and makes the artery wall thickened, stiff and fragile.
Because heart attack does not warn and strikes fast! Every year, in over 200,000 people, the first sign of heart disease is a sudden cardiac death which happens within 1-60 minutes from the onset of symptoms.
Are you a Vulnerable Patient?
Each year close to 1.4 million people in the United States experience a heart attack, and in excess of 500,000 die from it. Worldwide, over 19 million people die from a heart attack each year.Amazingly, 50 to 70% of those individuals who died from a heart attack were not aware of their risk. Definition of a vulnerable patient: Individuals who are at risk of a near term future heart attack are called vulnerable patients. One way of characterizing this population is to define those with a 5% or more risk of a heart attack in one year. In other words, in 10 years one out of two vulnerable patients will definitely experience a heart attack. By default, anyone with a history of prior heart attack is considered a vulnerable patient. SHAPE’s emphasis on identification of the vulnerable patient is for the asymptomatic population (apparently healthy people). A single test to precisely identify a vulnerable patient remains to be discovered .However, the SHAPE Guideline illustrates the path to detect and treat the vulnerable population.
How can I get tested?
You can get tested to better gauge your risk for heart attack or stroke by contacting a qualified physician. Those doctors trained and certified in the early detection of cardiovascular disease and heart attack prevention through the SHAPE Society are listed here by state. If there are no doctors listed in your city or state please email us for a referral to a qualified physician or medical center to best determine your risk for heart attack.
YES, Heart Attacks Can Be Eradicated!
The heart attack epidemic inherited from the 20th century (over 15 million heart attacks every year), makes it difficult for most people to imagine a future in which heart attacks are no longer a threat. Nonetheless, the mission of eradicating heart attacks is no more challenging than the mission of landing humans on Mars. The vision for a heart attack-free future can become a reality in the 21st century and can result in a major increase in human life expectancy and socioeconomic development, if the medical community, including academia, industry, and healthcare policymakers, shifts its investment from the treatment of events that have already occurred to prevention of the first event. The illustration below shows our visionary path to arrest the worldwide epidemic of atherosclerosis related mortality and morbidity, particularly heart attacks.
A heart healthy life style assisted by innovative preventive technologies and personalized medicine will be able to shift the existing in-hospital expensive sick care to the future out-of-hospital inexpensive health care.
- Era of Screening – Searching for and saving the vulnerable patient: as presented in the SHAPE Task Force report, the SHAPE initiative presents the best available strategy to advance the ongoing fight against ACVD, primarily heart attack and stroke.
- Era of “PolyPill” – Mass prophylactic therapy of at-risk population: A future with universal prophylactic therapy for the prevention of ACVD, using a cocktail of effective, safe, and inexpensive drugs (packaged compactly) to assure maximum compliance, is on the horizon. Although such a future is most desirable, there are major scientific and regulatory roadblocks that will require time and further investigations. Pending resolution of these issues, the SHAPE strategy remains the best strategy.
- Era of Vaccine – Primary prevention through immune modulation and vaccination strategies: Vaccination and immune modulation strategies for prevention, regression and stabilization of atherosclerosis present a most exciting possibility. Atherosclerosis bears many similarities to chronic inflammatory/autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. Compelling data from experimental models show that such diseases may be challenged by vaccination and immune modulation strategies. Will it be possible to attack ACVD with the same approach? Several studies have shown positive effects of immunization with antigenic LDL preparations. Such ground-breaking approaches may become the panacea for the world’s growing epidemic of heart disease.
Conclusion: Heart attacks can be eradicated in the 21st century if the medical community, including academia, industry, and healthcare policymakers, shifts its investment from the treatment of events that have already occurred to prevention of the first event, i.e. “lock the barn door before the horse is stolen”.
Dr. Morteza Naghavi, the founder and president of SHAPE, teaches healthcare professionals elements of the SHAPE guidelines for heart attack prevention. See the preview of Dr Naghavi’s book on Amazon. You should also know that heart attack often does not happen like the way it is portrayed on TVs by Hollywood. Learn more.