Doctors can predict your risk of heart attacks YEARS before they occur
‘Game-changing’ high-tech scans could predict risk of a heart attack YEARS before they occur
‘Game-changing’ high-tech scans could predict risk of a heart attack YEARS before they occur and save thousands of lives
- Researchers at the University of Oxford developed the latest technology
- They found the system could spot dangers that are missed by current tests
- The technology works by analysing the fat around the heart from a CT scan
- The new findings were presented at a major cardiology congress in Munich
New high-tech scans could predict the risk of heart attack years before they occur, a study has shown.
More than 300,000 middle-aged people in Britain could benefit every year from the breakthrough, experts predict.
Researchers at the University of Oxford developed the new technology, which automatically assesses a CT scan of the heart.
They found the system could spot dangers that are missed by the tests and scans currently used.
Researchers at the University of Oxford developed the new technology, which automatically assesses a CT scan of the heart. They found the system could spot dangers that are missed by the tests and scans currently used
The technology – which works by analysing the fat around the heart – flags up problems in 10 per cent of those who would be given the all-clear using current testing.
The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Munich and published in the Lancet medical journal, were greeted as a ‘game changer’ by cardiologists.
CT scans are currently used on about 40,000 people a year in Britain who are considered at risk of cardiovascular disease.
The potential of the technology means new guidelines are set to recommend scanning many more patients, taking the number of scans up to 300,000 a year.
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They would typically be given to people aged 40 to 70 with chest pains or who are considered at risk because of obesity, smoking or diabetes.
At the moment CT scans give the all clear to around 80 per cent of people scanned.
But the new study reveals that about one in ten of those given reassurance are actually at risk after all.
The new system, called the fat attenuation index, spots these patients, enabling doctors to treat them with statins or other drugs.
Professor Charalambos Antoniades, who led the study at Oxford’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, said: ‘This new technology may prove transformative for primary and secondary prevention.
‘For the first time we have a set of biomarkers, derived from a routine test that is already used in everyday clinical practice, that measures what we call the “residual cardiovascular risk”, currently missed by all risk scores and non-invasive tests.
‘Knowing who is at increased risk for a heart attack could allow us to intervene early enough to prevent it.
‘I expect these biomarkers to become an essential part of standard CT coronary angiography reporting in the coming years.’
Heart attacks are usually caused by inflamed plaques in the coronary artery causing an abrupt blockage of blood getting to the heart.
The challenge for doctors is knowing which plaques are most likely to cause blockages, and therefore which patients should be treated with more aggressive therapies.
The Oxford team showed the most dangerous plaques release chemicals which modify the surrounding fat – and the new scanning software spots these changes.
More than 100,000 people die from a heart attack or related stroke in the UK every year. The figure is up to canadianpharmtabs.com eight times higher in the US.
The technology is being licenced by a spinout company formed by Oxford University.
Professor Metin Avkiran of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said: ‘Most heart scans are good at spotting blockages caused by large plaques, but not the smaller, high-risk plaques that are likely to rupture and cause a heart attack.
‘This new technique could be a game changer – allowing doctors to spot those ‘ticking time bomb’ patients who are most at risk of a heart attack, and getting them on to intensive treatment. This would undoubtedly save lives.
‘By using this non-invasive scan, we could prevent a lurking heart attack that might occur down the road.’
WHAT DOES IT MEAN IF I HAVE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many won’t realise it.
The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
As a general guide:
- high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
- ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
- A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
- heart failure
- peripheral arterial disease
- aortic aneurysms
- kidney disease
- vascular dementia
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