Art of Medicine PA                                                                                                    

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Early Detection

Cardiovascular Disease 

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for American men and women. The common pathway to it’s complications of heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease is the process of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis literally means a "hardening of the arteries." It develops silently over several decades of life and results from the deposition of cholesterol filled plaques along as well as within the walls of the body's arterial system. Unfortunately, atherosclerosis is often allowed to go undetected and unchecked until symptoms and complications occur at a very late stage in the disease process. Nevertheless, once atherosclerosis is identified simple interventions such as aspirin or lipid lowering therapy can have a dramatic impact on the risk of complications such as heart attacks (lowering risk by as much as 40-90%).

Key Points:

  • Cardiovascular disease is common
  • Cardiovascular disease is deadly
  • Cardiovascular disease is very treatable if detected in a timely manner

Various factors are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease complications. These include: smoking, high blood pressure, elevations of cholesterol and diabetes. Because of this, physicians actively seek out and manage these risk factors in order to lower your risk of heart attack or stroke. Assessment of the carotid artery lining can similarly provide unique evidence of actual atherosclerosis occurring within the arterial system. The carotid artery lining known as the "intimal medial thickness" shows changes and thickening from plaque deposition long before the onset of any symptoms. The measurement of it’s' thickness has been proven to be useful in detecting and measuring the extent of plaque buildup occurring throughout the entire arterial system. 

Thickening in the carotid arteries is a better indicator of an increased risk for heart attack and stroke than either high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Carotid artery thickness can detects the presence of atherosclerosis at an early stage, permits a non-invasive measure of the extent of disease, and allows for a timely plan of therapy and management.


Cardiovascular disease is the cause of over a million heart attacks annually in the United States. Tragically, for up to a third of heart attacks victims, the first symptom will be sudden death. By the age of 40, the lifetime risk of developing cardiovascular disease is one in two for American men and one in three for American women. The carotid IMT determination identifies the presence of atherosclerosis in those at risk for future cardiovascular complications. The extent of carotid atherosclerosis has been shown to correlate with coronary artery plaque burden and is a proven independent risk factor for cardiovascular events.

Once properly identified, numerous preventive measures are proven to reduce the risk of the future cardiovascular complications such as heart attack & stroke.