AEHA SAYS CLINTON WAS A “VULNERABLE PATIENT” AND HIS CASE REVEALS AN URGENT NEED FOR A NATIONAL HEART ATTACK SCREENING PROGRAM
Organization Calls On Cardiologists To Adopt Technology Advances To Detect Hidden Heart Disease In Those Who Appear Healthy
HOUSTON, September 7, 2004 - The Association for Eradication of Heart Attack (AEHA) said today that the case of Former President Bill Clinton illustrates the serious gap that exists between the scientific understanding of heart attack causes and the traditional medical practice for prevention of heart attack. The organization said traditional tests are inadequate and leave millions of Americans with the mistaken impression that they are not at risk of a heart attack when they are.
According to news reports, the former president’s heart disease was not detected in his regular check-ups when physicians scrutinized his traditional risk factors, including cholesterol and an ECG stress test. Unfortunately, as reportedly was the case with Former President Clinton, current guidelines used to detect those susceptible to heart attacks fail in identifying many high-risk individuals. A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that 88 percent of heart attack victims would have been considered low to moderate risk if they were tested with current national guidelines the prior day.
AEHA says limiting heart screening to traditional factors and a treadmill stress test is a failure of modern cardiology and is calling for the adoption of a new approach to heart attack prevention.
"While traditional risk factors play a role in heart attack prevention, they are not sufficiently reliable to be an acceptable end point for middle aged men and women," said Dr. Prediman K. Shah , Chief of Cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and a member of AEHA’s SHAPE Task Force. "We have to seek direct anatomical evidence of arterial plaque build-up or thickening using non-invasive imaging technology, so we recommend that all men 45 and older and women 55 and older undergo a comprehensive vascular health assessment."
Saying that the medical community’s reliance solely upon traditional risk factors to identify patients in need of intervention has proven to be unsuccessful, AEHA’s SHAPE Task Force is developing a new approach to help physicians identify "vulnerable patients" like Former President Clinton who tend to be susceptible to a heart attack.
Modeled after successful screening efforts in the cancer care arena, the group suggests assessing the structure and function of the patient’s arteries in order to identify those who need immediate medical attention including an aggressive treatment and life style modification. Current national guidelines fail to identify these vulnerable patients. AEHA points to two methods currently in use as effective ways to assess structure and function: coronary calcium score using a CAT scan , which is used to determine the burden of plaque build-up in coronary arteries, and thickness of the carotid artery measured by ultrasound which correlates with an individual''s total burden of arterial plaque build-up or atherosclerosis.
The fact that these procedures remain out of financial reach of most Americans because most insurance programs and Medicare fail to cover them is an important area that needs to be addressed.
"It is absurd that we cover periodic screening for a range of ailments such as breast cancer and colon cancer, but fail to cover screening patients for the number one killer in America," said Dr. Harvey S. Hecht of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and a member of AEHA’s SHAPE Task Force. "Right now, we are extending the lives of those who can afford the procedure while millions of cases of heart disease go undetected because of antiquated thinking. This has to change."
Originated from the Texas Medical Center in Houston, the AEHA is a non-profit organization that promotes education and research related to mechanism, prevention, detection and treatment of heart attacks. The organization is committed to raising public awareness about recent revolutionary discoveries that revealed arteriosclerosis (fat build-up in the arteries) as an inflammatory disease and opened exciting new avenues to prevent heart attack including vaccination strategies. AEHA will hold two satellite symposia in conjunction with the annual meeting of American Heart Association on November 6th and 7th in which SHAPE guidelines and also vaccine for atherosclerosis will be discussed. The AEHA''s mission is to eradicate heart attacks before the end of the century. Additional information is available on the organization''s Web site at www.vp.org and www.AEHA.org.