Last week a 60 year old patient came for an appointment with me and told me that he had his annual physical with his internal medicine doctor. As part of that exam, an electrocardiogram (EKG) was done. This patient proudly told me that his doctor said he “had the heart of a 30 year old.”
Only problem is—you can’t tell the health of a heart with an EKG–or cholesterol number–or family history. The first sign of heart disease is a heart attack in 50% of cases. The problem with the usual cardiac evaluation is that it is based on risk factors rather than actual disease.
So how do you tell what your risk is? You want to look directly into the blood vessels to see if there is plaque. It is easy to do this with a simple, painless ultrasound scan of the carotid artery in the neck. That’s where you can “see” if there is plaque build-up.
Once you know your carotid scan score, further evaluation can be done to see why you have plaque deposited. The most likely reasons are blood sugar problems or inflammation caused by periodontal (gum) disease or other causes. By addressing these underlying issues, existing plaque can be stabilized and kept from causing a heart attack or stroke.
Know your score. It could save your life.