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Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular disease remains the greatest cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Two-thirds of Americans with cardiovascular disease come from the very large, “low-risk” portion of the population, which means a lot of at-risk people are missed during screenings.

One great aspect of Heart Health is that with the proper steps taken, you can dramatically reduce your risk of ever dying from a heart attack.  This is the number one killer in America and it is Very Avoidable. It’s extremely frustrating, and sad, that all too frequently I hear of someone who has died of a sudden heart attack at much too early of an age.  Especially when I know that it could have been prevented if they had done the tests I recommend and followed the necessary steps that were indicated based on their results. These steps are usually simple, yet critical, and provide a wide range of other health benefits. 

Offering New and Effective Strategies to Evaluate Risk

Unfortunately, many doctors, and many patients, think cholesterol testing and a treadmill stress test are the most important heart tests.   Let me make this perfectly clear, neither is!  The first test below is far superior for detecting atherosclerosis, and the second test is critical for determining whether or not your risk of Sudden Cardiac Death is increased, or if it is decreased by up to 90%!  

The other great news about these tests is that they are very low cost for the value they provide.   The Heart Scan in Santa Barbara is only $150, the lowest price I have ever heard of in the U.S.,  and the BrainSpan test, our replacement for the Omega-3 Index test is now only $125. Come on in and we can get you set up for both, or either one.  By the way, both of these tests are very simple processes. 

Why the Heart Scan is So Important

I have been studying this test and using it with patients for over 12 years now and I strongly recommend the Heart Scan/Calcium Score test for all men over 40 and all women over 45. Make that 5 years earlier if there is a significant family history of heart disease or if you exercise vigorously.

A new study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference in 2018, found that testing a patient’s coronary calcium levels is a better predictor of blocked coronary arteries at risk for a heart attack and the need for revascularization than standard risk-assessment equations used in medical practice today.  Those equations use factors like cholesterol levels, family history, age, gender, etc.

“With coronary calcium, we’re looking at a marker indicating the actual presence of anatomic disease—we’re not just looking at probabilities of disease based on a patient’s standard risk factors,” said Jeffrey L. Anderson, MD, a cardiologist and cardiovascular researcher at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City. “The risk factors are worth knowing, but they don’t tell whether or not you actually have the disease.”

I wish I had a test this good for other key areas of long term wellness! The Heart Scan test allows us to very clearly know the amount of hard plaque you have in your heart. It can determine if you don’t have any hard plaque at all (which is the case for most of my patients), if you do have hard plaque, and therefore are at risk, how great that risk is, and over time if your plaque is increasing at a fast rate, average rate, slow rate, not increasing or actually reversing. Since plaque build up and/or rupture are what cause the vast majority of heart attacks, this test provides the clearest picture of your risk of heart attack now and in the future. It clearly shows if you have any calcified plaque at all in your coronary arteries and if so, exactly how much, in how many different spots and exactly which areas of the arteries.

Cholesterol tests are relatively insignificant compared to this test, as someone can have perfectly great cholesterol levels and still have calcification; conversely, someone can have terrible cholesterol numbers and have totally clear arteries. I have seen this in my patients, and all doctors who have used the Heart Scan with any frequency have seen the same.

Another test that cardiologists rely heavily on is the stress test.  This test usually picks up decreased blood flow in the arteries of your heart, after it has reached at least 70% blockage! I have even seen patients with blockage greater than 70% who passed the stress test.  When you fail the stress test you are ready for surgery!  Fail it and they are scheduling you for a stent, bypass surgery or one of their other surgical options.

If you have a zero calcium score on the Heart Scan, which most of my patients have, plus an excellent result on your Omega-3 Index Test, then your risk of a heart attack today or in the near future is practically nonexistent! A zero score means you have no hard plaque in the arteries of your heart. That’s great news!

If you have a score greater than zero, then we know we need to take extra steps. This can include a lifestyle and nutritional plan to at least slow down if not stop the plaque from progressing, retesting in 1 – 2 years depending upon your score, and in some cases a referral to a cardiologist to find out if the blood flow to your heart is dangerously low. If you have a score greater than zero, future tests will clarify if the lifestyle and nutritional plan is effective at slowing, stopping or reversing your plaque. We’ve had very good results in this area with a high percentage of patients who follow the plan.

This is a condition that, if it exists, we want to know about immediately. I have seen 3 non-patients in recent years after they had a heart attack, and all of these heart attacks could have been avoided if they had had this test before. Again, if you are clear with a score of zero, we want to know that also.

There has been much misinformation regarding the amount of radiation the Heart Scan exposes you to. I have researched this a number of different times; it is a relatively low dose of radiation (full body scans are another thing). The amount of radiation falls within the same range as what we are exposed to living on planet earth for one year.

The actual test itself is quite simple and takes less than a couple of minutes. Additionally, in Santa Barbara we are very fortunate to have this test available for only $150, when the same test can cost as much as $600 or more in other areas.

The BrainSpan/Omega-3 Index: The New Champion in Testing for Cardiac Risk

What? A Brain Test for the Heart? Our BrainSpan test includes the critical Omega 3 Index test, the most important Bio-Chemical marker for your heart health. The BrainSpan test also gives us your fatty acid Cell Inflammation Index and a benchmark for how your brain is operating for your age. This is very important and valuable information, that also serves as a screening tool for picking up early cognitive decline.

Your Omega-3 Index is the most important number relative to your risk for Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD). This is the type of heart attack where an individual usually dies immediately or within a few minutes, usually with no time for aggressive intervention. It’s the kind of heart attack where an apparently healthy individual, possibly only in his or her 40’s or 50’s, and who may even recently have passed a cardiovascular stress test with flying colors, has a heart attack out of the blue and dies suddenly. These heart attacks most commonly result from a rupture of soft plaque, causing a sudden and severe clot that dramatically blocks blood flow in the arteries of the heart. They can also be the result of a sudden, severe arrhythmia.

The Omega-3 Index test specifically measures all the Omega-3, and 6 fatty acids in your red blood cells and scores the index of your most important Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA/DHA, compared to the rest of the fats in your red blood cell membranes. Individuals with an index in the desirable range (greater than 8%) have up to a 90% decreased risk of Sudden Cardiac Death compared to individuals with a score in the undesirable and most common range for Americans (below 4%).

Your Omega-3 Index cannot be predicted with certainty without analyzing your blood. There are numerous variables that influence how much EPA/DHA an individual needs: from genetics to absorption, diet, activity levels, medications, gender, weight and other lifestyle factors. Measuring the levels of omegas in your red blood cells clarifies exactly where your index falls and whether your intake is optimal. This test only requires one drop of blood.

Be Smart and Order Your Brainspan/Omega-3 Index Test Today!

I strongly recommend this test for all men over 40 and all women over 45. Please let me know if you have any other questions about this test.