Through innovation and advances in science, the health system has made significant progress in identifying and treating cardiovascular disease – the most significant development being the reduction in heart attacks and strokes. In fact, from 1980 to 2014, the number of Americans dying from cardiovascular disease dropped in half.
While we now know more than ever before about the risk factors associated with heart disease, many of the most common symptoms can be challenging to spot without the help of clinical laboratory diagnostics.
Take for example WWJ health reporter Dr. Deanne Lites, who took a calcium scoring test as a part of a story she produced last February for heart month. Much to her surprise, the test revealed a potential heart issue. Despite her lack of symptoms, additional testing led to a sobering finding: one of her arteries was 95% blocked.
For the more than 120 million adults in the U.S. who have cardiovascular disease, laboratory tests can give patients and providers the tools they need to assess risk and determine the best clinical pathway forward. Standard blood tests, in particular, are a perfect example of how laboratory tests can offer insights and important clues about a patient’s health. Blood tests can determine levels of “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) in a patient’s blood, which would put them at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and consequently, heart attacks. With this information in hand, providers and patients can establish a care plan and take preventative measures. For patients like Dr. Deanne Lites, knowing about a predisposition to cardiovascular disease or its consequences is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing a condition.
Each day, patients and providers across the country use clinical laboratory tests to glean powerful information about patient health, leading to healthier habits and better clinical decision making. As American Heart Month comes to a close, now is a great time for patients to start a conversation with their doctors about potential risk factors and take steps to protect their future health.