Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall, author of Dr. Crandall’s Heart Health Report newsletter, is chief of the Cardiac Transplant Program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He practices interventional, vascular, and transplant cardiology. Dr. Crandall received his post-graduate training at Yale University School of Medicine, where he also completed three years of research in the Cardiovascular Surgery Division. Dr. Crandall regularly lectures nationally and internationally on preventive cardiology, cardiology healthcare of the elderly, healing, interventional cardiology, and heart transplants. Known as the “Christian physician,” Dr. Crandall has been heralded for his values and message of hope to all his heart patients.

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Testing Artery Health

Tuesday, 15 Mar 2011 10:19 AM

When fatty deposits start building up inside the arteries, the blood vessels start to narrow. This buildup is called plaque and it reduces the blood supply that an artery can hold. The plaque also irritates the arterial wall and results in calcification, or “hardening” of the tissue.

Your doctor can perform a number of medical exams to measure your risk of heart disease due to hardening of the arteries. But first, here is a test you can do in the privacy of your own home that is very revealing. It’s called the “waist-to-hip ratio.”

This simple test — which requires nothing but a tape measure and a calculator — has proven to be a better predictor of heart disease than body mass index (BMI).

Here’s what you do:

1. Measure the thinnest part of your waist.

2. Measure the widest part of your hips.

3. Divide the first measurement by the second one.

This is your waist-to-hip ratio.

Say your waist is 36” and your hips are 47”; 36 divided by 47 equals 0.765. A healthy ratio for women is anything less than 0.8. For men, it’s less than 0.9. If your ratio is higher than that, it probably means you have excess belly fat. Studies show that people with excess belly fat have more plaque in their arteries, putting them at greater risk for heart disease.

Your doctor may also want to do blood work to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. I like to see total cholesterol under 150 with HDL greater than 45 and LDL less than 70. Triglyceride count should be less than 150.

An electrocardiogram (EKG) looks at how electrical current travels through the heart. A resting EKG tells the rate and regularity of the heartbeat. But be warned: Electrical currents in the heart can be completely normal even when someone has severely blocked arteries.

A stress EKG is conducted while the patient exercises on a treadmill or stationary bike. Someone with arteriosclerosis will usually show evidence of decreased blood supply to the heart during exercise.

If any of these noninvasive tests indicate probability of atherosclerosis, an angiogram can be done. In this test, special dye is injected into the arteries, and X-rays track the dye as it travels through the body. This test is the gold standard for determining how advanced hardening of the arteries has become.

© HealthDay

 
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