The Nation's Health + [Heart scans]

Heart scans: Let's make it a lot easier

The American Heart Association just released a new set of consensus guidelines on heart disease prevention in women: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Women: 2007 Update

For those of you following the Heart Scan Blog and the Track Your Plaque program, there will be little new in the guidelines. In fact, you'll wonder if the date on the front of the report should be 1987, rather than 2007. Did you know that you should exercise and eat healthy?

Take a look at the list of risk factors for coronary vascular disease (CVD) listed in the report:

Major risk factors for CVD, including:
Cigarette smoking
Poor diet
Physical inactivity
Obesity, especially central adiposity
Family history of premature CVD (CVD at <55>

Progress: You'll notice that buried inside the list is "Evidence of subclinical vascular disease (e.g., coronary calcification)". Just a few short years ago that wouldn't have even been included.

The Track Your Plaque contention is that, for the great majority of women, this list could be shortened to one item: coronary calcification. As time goes on, the people who argue and draft these guidelines will come to the realization that coronary calcification is the disease--it's not a risk for the disease, a predictor of the disease. Coronary calcification is the disease itself. The other items on the list recede way into the background when you know whether or not coronary atherosclerosis is present, i.e., you know your heart scan score (of coronary calcium).

The report goes to say such things as taking a little bit of fish oil is a good idea, maintaining a normal blood pressure is desirable. . . yada yada yada. You've heard this all before.

A major part of the treatment guidelines are devoted to LDL cholesterol reduction with statin agents. You shouldn't be surprised. It's amazing what $22 billion dollars in revenues will buy.

A closing paragraph reads:

'Population-wide strategies are necessary to combat the
pandemic of CVD in women, because individually tailored
interventions alone are likely insufficient to maximally prevent
and control CVD. Public policy as an intervention to
reduce gender-based disparities in CVD preventive care and
improve cardiovascular outcomes among women must become
an integral strategy to reduce the global burden of

Say that again? If you understood that bit of gobbledygook, you're a lot smarter than me.

Don't look to the American Heart Association report for any new ideas. It reminds me of the politician who reminds everybody of what a devoted family man he is: It has nothing to do with his policies. It just makes him look good. If compared to prior report, the 2007 report does indeed represent progress--but just oh so little.