February is National Heart Month.  Dr. Ebanks discusses the myths and facts of heart disease and how heart disease can be reversed and prevented.  

In 2009, the cost of cardiovascular disease in the U.S. was $475.3 billion (AHA), more than 20% of the entire healthcare system expenditures.  The mean lifetime cost for an individual that has suffered a stroke is $140,000.  Average yearly costs for an individual with diagnosed with some form of cardiovascular disease is $5936.  In addition, 80-90% of cardiovascular disease is preventable (Institute of Medicine).

MYTH # 1High cholesterol causes heart disease.

High cholesterol may be a risk factor but does not cause heart disease.  In numerous studies it has been demonstrated that >60% of those having a heart attack have normal cholesterol.  Emerging evidence implicates chronic inflammation in the etiology of heart disease.  Recent science has revealed that statin drugs provide their benefit by their anti-inflammatory properties rather than the cholesterol lowering properties.

MYTH #2:  Heart disease primarily affects men.

To the contrary, half of the 1 million deaths due to cardiovascular disease occur among women in the United States. Cardiovascular disease kills nearly ten times more women each year than breast cancer.

MYTH #3:  With current medical advances, surviving a heart attack is not as bad as it once was.

80 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease.  For many people, the first symptom of heart disease is a heart attack.  We underestimate the risk, but one out every four first time heart attacks results in “sudden death!”

FACT #1:  Heart disease is an epidemic.

Undetected cardiovascular disease is the greatest health risk facing Americans.  It is the number one killer of Americans, killing more people each year that the next five leading causes combined, including cancer.  CVD incidence has increased 33% over the last seven years.

FACT#2:   Early detection can save lives.

In 2006, the Screening for Heart Attack Prevention and Education (SHAPE) Task Force recommended coronary artery calcification score (CACS) determined by CT scan and carotid artery intima-media thickness (CIMT) evaluation to reduce the burden of unpredicted cardiovascular events (acute coronary syndromes and sudden cardiac death) in the apparently healthy population.  CIMT was found to be superior to CACS in a 2009 Mayo Clinic study.

Heart disease can be prevented and even reversed. If you are over 40, have any known risk factors, have a concern about your cardiovascular health or learn that you have heart disease, a comprehensive lifestyle change can drastically reduce your chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Risk factors can be managed.

Alternity Healthcare provides health assessments and tests, such as the HeartSmart IMT,  to detect heart disease and identify risk factors. The HeartSmart IMT, which was used to analyze last season’s contestants of The Biggest Loser, tests for the thickness of the carotid artery, which runs from the heart to brain. The HeartSmart IMT detects heart disease in its earliest form, long before there is a buildup of plaque in the arteries.