Your Bloodstream Is Where Heart Disease Begins
We think that breathing and eating are the functions of our lungs and digestive system, but both are really done by the endothelium: a thin layer of cells that covers every interior surface of the bloodstream, from the walls of the heart to the smallest capillary. It’s here, in the endothelium, that food and oxygen are transferred into the body.
The endothelium also serves several critical functions in the immune system, including acting as the “blood-brain” barrier. It regulates blood pressure and blood clotting. If the endothelium is dysfunctional, it affects every part of your body and diminishes your overall health.
A More Accurate Analysis
Typical heart disease risk factors — smoking, family history, high cholesterol — do not measure endothelial function, which can provide a much clearer assessment of the risk of heart attack and stroke. Many of the available tests only show evidence of plaque once there is significant buildup.
- A “stress test,” commonly used to measure heart disease, will not show an abnormal result until there is an 70% blockage.
- More than half of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels. By themselves, cholesterol scores cannot accurately predict heart disease.
- CRP tests indicate inflammation, which can be caused by other factors such as infection, illness or arthritis.
- For years, doctors have needed a test of endothelial function to help discover heart disease progression that may be missed by other diagnostics. The first available test was invasive and complex, and not suitable for many patients. Other methods were introduced in recent years, but they were either tricky to administer accurately or carried other risks, including radiation.
A New Solution
In 2003, the FDA approved the EndoPAT™, a non-invasive test that provides an accurate assessment of endothelial function. Now, we can provide patients with a much more accurate picture of their risk for heart disease, even at the beginning of the plaque formation process.
The test is simple: patients recline comfortably as a blood pressure cuff restricts the flow of blood to the arm. (This is the same procedure used commonly by every doctor to measure blood pressure.) At the same time, two specialized sensors are placed on the fingers to measure the flow of blood before and after the cuff is inflated. The difference between these two readings will establish a baseline for your endothelial function.
Once we have this information, we can produce a program that gives patients the tools they need to halt and reverse the progression of cardiovascular disease. This test can allow us to more clearly determine your actual risk of heart disease, helping to prevent the unexpected strokes and heart attacks that kill more than 500,000 people and can permanently damage the heart and brain of those that survive.