Houston, June 17, 2004 – Estimating that heart attacks have left at least five million American families fatherless, the Association for Eradication of Heart Attack (AEHA) says the most heart-felt Father’s Day gift may be a heart test.

A heart test can be as cheap as a $50 blood test for C-reactive protein (CRP) or Cholesterol. If your father has already done these tests, a non-invasive imaging of the heart, such as a CT scan (also called a heart scan), is another important element of AEHA’s proposed National Screening for Heart Attack Prevention and Education (SHAPE) Program. AEHA recommends that everyone over age 35 should be aware of their short-term and long-term risk of heart attack.

AEHA is working to bridge the gap between the new science and the traditional medical practice for prevention of heart attack. Earlier this year, AEHA proposed new comprehensive risk assessment guidelines that incorporate novel diagnostic tools that are available to practicing physicians. The National SHAPE Program is a multi-step comprehensive risk assessment strategy.

The three-step initiative includes the following: 1) assessment of traditional risk factors through the Framingham Risk Score and a blood test called C-reactive protein (CRP) for everyone over age 35; 2) non-invasive imaging, such as a CT scan for those ranked as high risk through the Framingham Risk Score or CRP; and 3) intra-vascular ultrasound imaging for those found to have a high total plaque burden by CT.  An aggressive medical therapy and lifestyle modification for those ranked high risk in each step is strongly suggested. In addition to aggressive medical therapy, which should be widely practiced by physicians, advanced pre-emptive interventions, such as surgery and stenting, are open to physicians’ decision making for the first time.

The goal of a heart scan is to measure the calcium deposits in the coronary arteries and other major arteries. This gives a cardiologist a relatively good indication of how much calcified plaque has built up within the arteries. Recent discoveries have confirmed that heart attacks are caused by inflammation and wounds in the walls of arteries that feed the heart muscle. Some of these wounds heal and, during the healing process, they create scars that cause narrowing.

“Imaging the body’s total plaque burden can serve as a reasonable surrogate marker of the risk in the majority of at risk individuals, said Dr. Morteza Naghavi, the Founder and President of AEHA. “Even so, a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s risk is a necessity. Ultimately, we hope to get America’s families thinking and talking about issues surrounding heart attack prevention.”

Heart disease is the number one cause of death among men. Unfortunately, current guidelines used to detect those susceptible to heart attacks fail in identifying many high-risk individuals. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 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.

“Perhaps the best Father’s Day gift of all would be a brief conversation with dad to encourage him to ask his doctor about the latest advances in heart attack prevention, and sign him up at a local gym or wellness center,” said Naghavi. “I can’t think of a better way to let dad know how much he means to the family and how much you would miss him if he was gone.”

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. 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.