How your artery age can help predict your risk for heart attack

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DENVER -- Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the United States. With that in mind, many women regularly get their cholesterol and blood pressure checked.

But there is another quick and easy test that doctors say can tell you the age of your arteries -- and your potential risk for heart disease.

We found three women to take an artery age test at the Boone Heart Institute in Denver.

The youngest patient was Elizabeth Currie.  She’s 28 years old and engaged to be married.  She works out daily, but has a family history of high blood pressure.

The next patient is Tracy Burt.  She’s a 37 years old mother of three.  She exercises regularly, but has a family history of heart attacks.

The third patient is Genevieve Steinbock.  She’s a 44-year-old mother of two.  She exercises some, and has a family history if diabetes and heart attack.

All three were given a carotid artery ultrasound, known as a Carotid IMT.  It checks for plaque and measures the lining of the arteries in the neck.

“The lining of the artery where the plaque begins to grow is a great predictor of future arterial health. So we measure the thickness of that  plaque breeding ground,” said Dr. Jeffrey Boone, founder of the Boone Heart Institute.

Using the test, Boone can calculate your artery age and then compare it to a patient's actual age.

“That then is useful in a preventative sense,” Boone said.

None of our patients had any plaque, which was good, and there were no serious problems, but there were some surprises in the results.

Elizabeth, who is 28, had an artery age of 41.

Boone told her this could be a genetic issue.

“I consider myself a pretty healthy person, so I mean, this is something I never would have known or guessed unless I had gotten this test,” she said.

Next up was Tracy, who is 37, and her artery age is 38.

“I’ll be 38 in August so not too far off,” she said.

Genevieve, who is 44, got another surprise.  According to the test, her artery age is 30.

That was pretty good news for a woman worried about her family history.

“It puts me at ease a little bit, especially with my mother having her complications,” she said.

Artery testing not part of preventative care

Boone says most people don’t get any kind of testing until they have a problem.

“By the time you’ve got serious blockages, you’ve had the disease for ten or twenty, or thirty years.  What we want to do is find it very early,” he said.

He wants this test to become a routine part of an exam in Colorado.

“Our feeling is if we found this early we could literally begin to eradicate heart attack and stroke,” Boone said.

If the results are not good, people can make changes to their lifestyle or take medication as needed.  Then they can watch as their artery age and their potential risk come down.

A CT scan, that detects calcium, can give patients similar information, but patients can get the Carotid IMT test for less than $100.

Research still has not proven that the test can prolong life, but Dr.Boone says he’s not waiting for a study.  He’s forging ahead testing students in high schools, firefighters and professional sports teams.

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