Early heart disease can be screened with a noninvasive fingertip test, says a Mayo Clinic study (Journal of American College of Cardiology, Dec. 2004). When arteries thicken from buildup of fatty deposits (atherosclerosis), this usually affects blood vessels throughout the body, not just cardiac arteries.
The study’s leader, Amir Lerman, MD, predicted that people with abnormal fingertip results would also have heart disease. And sure enough, a strong correlation was revealed: This fingertip test was highly sensitive to detecting early heart disease. The earliest measurable sign of blood-vessel abnormality is an endothelial dysfunction.
This dysfunction can be identified in the fingers, strongly suggesting that this same dysfunction exists in coronary arteries. The fingertip test, known as reactive hyperemia peripheral arterial tonometry (RH-PAT), can be a very useful tool in detecting early heart disease, because it’s non-invasive, unlike an angiogram.
“In this group of patients with chest pain, the noninvasive test was very sensitive in identifying those with early heart disease,” explains Dr. Lerman. The fingertip test takes about 20 minutes, whereas an angiogram takes an hour or so.
An angiogram is still considered the gold standard for detecting arterial blockage, but it carries notable risks such as injured arteries, blood clots, infection and even cardiac arrest. Ideally, the research into the fingertip test to screen for early heart disease would be extended to a broader population of people who are not yet presenting with symptoms of cardiovascular ailments (though they may still have an ailment). Hopefully, this simple, noninvasive test will become a standard screening device for early heart disease detection.
I’m a certified personal trainer. To reduce your risk of developing heart disease, make the following changes to your lifestyle:
#1. Stop making excuses for not exercising.
#2. Stop thinking that the housework you do comprises sufficient exercise to help ward off heart disease. Millions of people have heart disease, and these same millions of people perform housework and yard work. Connect the dots.
#3. Do both cardio and strength training, focusing on large muscle groups with the strength training.
#4. Avoid trans fats, smoking and alcohol. Though you’ve read that red wine is “heart healthy,” this is because of the polyphenols — and these antioxidants can also be found in grape juice, fresh grapes and resveratrol supplements.
#5. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Too little sleep, and too much sleep, have been strongly tied to cardiac problems.
Get screened for early heart disease and inquire about the fingertip test. When heart disease is detected early, it can often be cured or managed very successfully.