Friday, January 22, 2010

Vascular Screenings Check for Silent Problems

From: Keeping in Circulation

Most of us know something about heart disease, but many do not know that we need to take care of our arteries as well. These vessels create a "superhighway" of blood flow that takes oxygen-rich blood from the heart to every area of our bodies. It is the buildup of plaque (which is a combination of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other materials) in the arteries, which can lead to more serious health issues such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), heart attack or stroke.

One way to monitor what is going on with your arteries is to have a vascular screening, which can aid in the early detection of vascular disease. This can be helpful, as many vascular diseases do not have noticeable symptoms as warning signs.

Vascular screenings check for a variety of issues related to the arteries, are painless, non-invasive and involve no radiation. The screenings typically check the:

Carotid arteries – This test uses Doppler ultrasound to check for plaque and assess the rate of blood flow in the arteries of the neck which bring blood to the brain.
Abdominal aorta – This test checks for an enlargement of the abdominal aorta, the largest artery in the body.
Peripheral arteries – This is a non-invasive blood pressure test called the ankle-brachial index (ABI) that looks at the systolic pressure (upper number of your blood pressure) in your arms and legs to check for diminished blood flow.
The screenings are most appropriate for those over age 50 with specific risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of heart attack, aortic aneurysm or stroke. If you have diabetes, you are at a particularly increased risk for PAD. The American Diabetes Association recommends that every person with diabetes age 50 and older have a screening for PAD.

Screenings are generally not offered as part of a regular physical examination and most health insurance companies will not cover the costs unless you have symptoms.

As the conditions for which these tests screen tend to be silent in the early stages, there can be benefits to screening when you are at risk. The good news is that there are hospitals and private companies that offer the screenings in the community at low cost and sometimes for free.

Look for a screening event provided in conjunction with your local hospital. Or, look for an event conducted by a private company that has a solid reputation and clearly explains the screenings offered and provides background information on its clinical team.

No screening for any disease is 100 percent accurate all the time. There is always a chance for a false finding. That is why it is important that you share your screening results with your health care provider, who can discuss the findings of the screening with you and make sure you have all of the follow-up that you need.

No comments:

Post a Comment