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Heart disease risk can be evaluated without a lot of tests

November 15, 2010|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
  • Fancy tests aren't needed to predict one's risk of heart disease.
Fancy tests aren't needed to predict one's risk of heart disease. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

Heart disease risk assessment doesn't depend on a bunch of fancy and expensive tests, cardiologists said Monday. A basic assessment that includes cholesterol level, blood pressure, age, sex, family history and whether an individual smokes or has diabetes is the strongest tool a doctor can use in predicting the likelihood of heart disease in people who don't have any symptoms of disease.

The findings were released Monday in a joint statement from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Assn. The statement includes specific guidelines for how people without symptoms should be assessed for heart disease and is published online Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Experts reviewed more than 400 studies to look at risk assessment. Every person age 20 and older should receive a "global cardiovascular risk score" from their primary care doctor, they said.

New risk-assessment technologies such as C-reactive protein blood tests and coronary calcium imaging and scoring have received widespread attention but aren't necessary for most people, said Dr. Philip Greenland, the lead author of the paper and a professor of medicine and preventive cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Additional tests beyond the basic assessment were found to be most valuable for people who are considered at intermediate risk for heart disease.

"There's strong evidence that the basic risk assessment we've been advocating for years has a very, very strong ability to predict risk," Greenland said in a news release.

The study found that genetic testing, advanced lipid testing and, stress echocardiography were among eight assessment tools that have no benefit in people without symptoms of heart disease.

Related: Diuretic Inspra sharply reduces deaths in patients with mild heart failure.

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