After indulging over the holidays or on summer vacation, many of us get back to healthier lifestyles. We pull out the healthy foods, get rid of the candy and cookies, and get back into our exercise routines.
It can feel like a bit of a letdown. And somewhere, as we pull out the healthy breakfast cereal, we wonder if all of these efforts are worth it. Is this really helping us from having a heart attack, for example? Are we doing too much or too little? And how will we know how effective this is — until it’s too late? Will we have to wait 40 years (or more) for the results?
With HeartSavers(TM) in Cupertino, many of those questions can be answered right now. “The idea is that a heart scan is a preventive measure,” explains Dr. Mehrdad Rezaee. “We try to capture people before they develop coronary artery disease.”
The scans taken by HeartSavers(TM) can show deposits in the arteries in and around the heart. “Based on that, we can predict how likely someone will develop coronary artery disease,” Rezaee explains.
And the company is looking for those just past youth to give them the feedback they are craving. “We’re particularly looking for people age 37 and up,” he notes.
HeartSavers(TM) is also geared toward people who feel healthy. “It’s not necessarily for people who have symptoms. Our goal is to prevent coronary artery disease,” Rezaee explains, and by the time a patient has symptoms, chances are the disease is present. “Although if they have symptoms, we can tell whether they are related to coronary artery disease.”
Rezaee explains that, unlike other medical tests currently available, HeartSavers(TM) is unique in its ability to diagnose the likelihood of coronary artery disease in people who otherwise look and feel healthy. “An EKG won’t tell you. Blood cholesterol tests give an association — if your cholesterol is high, it suggests it, but it doesn’t confirm with certainty that you have coronary artery disease.”
Even the granddaddy of all tests, the stress test, will miss all but the most severe artery blockages. “A stress test is abnormal only if the blockage is 70 per cent or more. If the artery is only 30 or 40 per cent blocked, you can still end up with a normal stress test,” Rezaee explains.
For patients, the HeartSavers(TM) test does a lot more than diagnose. Because the test produces a full picture of the heart and coronary arteries, patients get a very personal kick-start to their motivation to lead a healthy lifestyle. “You can actually take a look at it and see the pictures. Patients say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to change my lifestyle,'” Rezaee notes.
The HeartSavers(TM) scan is also very helpful for those who are currently taking or about to take cholesterol-reducing drugs. “People wonder, ‘Do I really need to go on this medication?’ If the scan is negative, they may not need to go on the cholesterol medication,” he explains, adding that the cost of the test, at $350 to $450, can easily save someone much more if they can forgo cholesterol medication as a result.
And patients are often relieved that they won’t have to adjust their bodies to a medication, either. “Basically, you’ve bought that patient 365 days of not taking a medication they don’t need, a medication that may cause side effects.”
In addition to the scan, patients at HeartSavers(TM) also get to discuss the results with a doctor, such as Rezaee. “I really utilize this time to educate patients. This is the time I can talk to them about what would develop. This is a real educational time. What we talk about is everything everybody already knows, about eating right and exercise, but it is very different when you have a picture of your own coronary arteries in front of you, and a doctor says, ‘Hey, this could progress to coronary artery disease.'”