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Ultrasonography Predicts Heart Attack/Stroke Risk

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) -- supported scientists report that ultrasonography, a non-invasive test, predicts the risk of heart attack and stroke in older persons with no cardiovascular disease symptoms.

The test was used to measure the thickness of the walls of two arteries in the neck. The result gave vital information beyond that available from an assessment of the standard cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

The NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health. The finding appears in the January 7 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"This study shows that ultrasonography has great potential in the prevention of heart attack and stroke," said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant. "By identifying high risk patients, ultrasonography would allow doctors to provide aggressive treatment early."

Such treatment includes control of high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, weight loss, increased physical activity, and aspirin and other drug therapies, he added.

Heart disease and stroke are the first and third leading causes of death among Americans. Each year, about 500,000 Americans die of coronary heart disease and about 160,000 of stroke. One in five Americans has some form of cardiovascular disease.

Ultrasonography is a relatively inexpensive, painless test in which sound waves above the range of human hearing are sent into the neck. Echoes bounce off the moving blood and the tissue in the artery and are then formed into an image.

The test is currently used in stroke prevention to diagnose advanced disease in the carotid arteries. The new study found that the test detects disease much earlier and identifies those at risk of heart attack as well as stroke.

The study involved 4,476 men and women, aged 65 and older, drawn from the NHLBI-supported Ca
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
6-Jan-1999


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