Thursday, April 23, 2009

What is your Vascular Age?


How old are you…really..? Do you know? Your ‘Vascular Age’ is the number which truly counts and you need to have a CIMT to find out what that is. Fortunately, there is a simple, painless, non-invasive procedure to determine that age. But it isn’t free!

CIMT* – or Carotid Intima Media Thickness provides a direct measurement of vascular disease, if any, even at its earliest stage before it causes any symptoms or starts to block blood flow. This is done via a quick, painless ultrasound of the carotid arteries (along your neck) and usually takes place in a Drs’ office, a medical lab, or other clinical setting. This is a look at the inner lining of your artery to determine atherosclerotic plaque accumulation. The carotid artery is a good indicator of what your other arteries look like.
Previously, the best/only way to determine your/my risk for heart disease/stroke was to assess the risk factors – family history, history of smoking, obesity, poor diet, exercise, cholesterol. Possibly you were put on medication if one or more of these were out of line. i.e. – high cholesterol. Relying on these factors as a determinate of future events is no longer recommended in light of current technology.
CIMT screening reveals the effect any of these risk factors may or may not be having on the health of your arteries and heart. That’s the important information. Not do I have a history? But is that history having an impact, taking root, causing damage, aging me prematurely, making me older than I am, causing me to have heart damage that I’m not feeling or of which I’m unaware? These are the important questions.
By the time we feel the effects of heart disease, the damage has already been occurring. Knowing about it in advance, gives one time to make those lifestyle changes or time to take the cholesterol medication that is being considered, or both.

Heart disease is the number one killer of American men and women. It is preventable or at least manageable if you have all the information.

Right now, most insurance companies are not covering CIMT! Don’t you love it? It is considered ‘preventative screening.’ Now my argument to the insurance company would be: certainly it would be less costly in the long run to pay for a test now to screen for and ultimately prevent onset of potential heart disease, than to treat me later if I develop full blown Coronary Artery Disease… but that is a different blog post.
The cost for my CIMT was $125. I paid cash, as was required by the company, which is ‘Midwest Imaging.’ Midwest Imaging visits my Drs. Office once a month and that’s where I had mine. If you are in the Cincinnati area you can call them directly and find out their testing locations. A Drs. order is not required to have a CIMT, but you will want to share the results with your physician. If not in Cincinnati, check with your physician or Google CIMT and the name of your town.
The results, which took several weeks to receive, are quite detailed and quite fascinating. You will learn your ‘Vascular age’ as compared to others of your race, age, gender, as well as your risk for a heart attack in the next 10 years. (Given in a percentage)
CIMT is not the only ‘preventative screening’ test out there for heart disease, but is considered to be the best option. There is no x-ray radiation with an ultrasound. CIMT gives more information about the effects within the artery itself.
The other significant test being utilized is a ‘CT for Coronary Calcium’ which gives a numerical risk for heart event based on the amount of calcium in the arteries of the heart. It is a CAT Scan (Computerized Axial Tomography) of the heart and therefore x-ray radiation is utilized . Of course, many times, CAT scans are needed and valuable tools, and I don’t concern myself with the radiation of the CT when medically warranted. But my Dr. felt that for NO RADIATION we gain more information about my arteries by having this ultrasound CIMT. Other independent data supports her on this – more information gained at no pain, or risk by having the CIMT. The calcium score with the CT scan is not the whole story of the artery, but the ultrasound CIMT could detect plaque and well as determine wall thickness from aging, to tell a more complete story of your arteries, or mine!

*CIMT recommend for all those over the age of 40 regardless of presence of heart symptoms or history of heart disease.
I have no affiliation with any company or entity providing CIMT testing

No comments: