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Association for Eradication of Heart Attacks Says Routine Heart Attack Screening Could Prevent Hundreds of Thousands of Heart Attacks Each Year

Recent Discoveries Prompt Call for Adoption of First National Heart Attack Screening Guidelines

HOUSTON, March 4, 2004 - In the wake of recent discoveries that found sudden heart attacks can be prevented through proper screening, the Association for Eradication of Heart Attacks is calling on the medical community to adopt the National Screening for Heart Attack Prevention and Education (SHAPE) Program.

The three-step National SHAPE Program includes the following:

  1. Framingham Risk Score: Everyone over age 35 should know their long-term risk of having a heart attack, which is measured by assessment of traditional risk factors, such as high cholesterol, using the Framingham Risk Score as well as a blood test called C-reactive protein (CRP). However, this score cannot definitively identify people at risk of a heart attack, particularly in short term.
  2. Non-Invasive Imaging: Those ranked as high risk through the Framingham Risk Score and/or CRP should undergo a heart scan to assess their total plaque burden, and if ranked high risk, should progress to step three.
  3. Intra-vascular Imaging: An Intra-vascular ultrasound procedure to identify vulnerable coronary arteries.

Currently, major heart disease prevention guidelines -- such as the "National Cholesterol Education Program" -- are limited to assessing patients with conventional risk factors with an emphasis on high cholesterol. However, a large number of people who are healthy based on the National Cholesterol Education Program unexpectedly experience a fatal heart attack.

Recent discoveries indicate that inflammation of the arteries is a major factor in the causal chain of heart attack, yet it goes undetected by the National Cholesterol Education Program.

"The medical community has done a great job of educating people and a good job of treating for conventional cardiovascular risk factors, but we have yet to adopt guidelines for screening the public to identify people with risk markers," said Dr. Morteza Naghavi, the Founder and President of AHEA. "Adoption of the National SHAPE Program would focus on identifying those people who are most vulnerable to experience a heart attack."

Focusing on such risk markers are much more valuable for screening purposes than risk factors. Risk markers show the effect of many known and unknown risk factors. Those who ranked high in screening should be put on aggressive treatment to prevent a near-future heart attack.

The AEHA estimates that public screening for heart attacks would reveal that as many as 15 million Americans can be classified as "vulnerable patients," which means they urgently need medical attention to address various types of vulnerable plaque, blood inflammation and abnormalities in the heart muscle. Studies indicate that without screening, approximately one out of ten of these vulnerable patients will experience a sudden heart attack within 12 months.

"Routine screening for heart attacks in high risk subjects is absolutely necessary because, in more than 50 percent of coronary heart disease cases, the first symptom is sudden death," said Dr. Naghavi. "We cannot continue to ignore the fact that current traditional risk factor-based guidelines allow these people to think they are healthy when their heart is actually a ticking time bomb."

The AEHA's National SHAPE Program will be discussed in detail at The AEHA's 2nd Vulnerable Patient Satellite Symposium, scheduled in New Orleans on March 6. It comes on the eve of the Annual Conference of American College of Cardiology, which begins March 7 in New Orleans.

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 coronary heart disease. The organization is committed to raising awareness about recent revolutionary discoveries in cardiology that revealed arteriosclerosis as an inflammatory disease and uncovered the immediate underlying cause of most heart attacks, vulnerable plaque. 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.

Author: Lisa Brown
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