SMH Cardiovascular Disease Assessment Center Putting Heart Attack/Stroke Risk in Perspective

Jun/09/2010

Sarasota Memorial's Cardiovascular Disease Assessment Center offers 18 of the latest, non-invasive heart, lung and circulation tests available to detect heart and vascular disease in its earliest – and most preventable – stages. Cost: $329. No physician referral necessary. For information or appointments, call: (941) 917-6969 or visit here.

CDAC ImageSARASOTA (June 9, 2010) – For centuries, eyes have been seen as windows to the soul. Medical research now demonstrates the eyes also offer vital clues to our risk of heart disease and stroke.

Biometric retina scans reveal that the delicate blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye are actually among the first to show hardening of the arteries, often reflecting changes taking place in blood vessels in other parts of the body, especially the brain, kidneys and heart, said Sarasota Cardiologist Mahfouz El Shahawy, M.D., medical director of Sarasota Memorial’s Cardiovascular Disease Assessment Center and member of the European and American societies for cardiovascular disease prevention.

“It’s important to remember that heart disease is not isolated to the heart … it’s a systemic thing, and often the earliest markers show up in other areas of the body first,” he said.

That’s the thinking behind Sarasota Memorial’s 18-Point Heart Inspection and state-of-the-art Cardiovascular Disease Assessment Center, which offers a novel series of tests that look beyond traditional risk factors for actual evidence of disease. Since Sarasota Memorial opened the center two years ago, more than 1,500 people (age 20 to 85) have undergone the testing with startling results. Although most showed no outward signs of heart disease, the sensitive tests revealed that 70 percent of the men and 57 percent of the women had early signs of disease – with intermediate to high risk factors that warranted immediate lifestyle changes and/or medical treatment to prevent further progression.

It is a unique assessment method – combining old mainstays such as blood pressure and cholesterol checks, along with more advanced tests like biometric retina scans to check the blood vessels in the back of the eye, arterial elasticity analyses and carotid, heart and abdominal aortic ultrasounds, among others.

Attracting International Attention
While studying individual results, Sarasota Memorial’s cardiovascular assessment team has also been conducting a series of research studies to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of individual tests in predicting heart and vascular disease. The results have piqued the interest of researchers across the globe.

As medical director of Sarasota Memorial’s assessment center, Shahawy has been asked to present the findings at numerous national and international conferences and cardiovascular symposiums, including the 15th World Congress on Heart Disease that will be held next month in Vancouver, Canada. He also has presented findings at the American Society of Hypertension, the Egyptian Society of Cardiology and the International Conference on Early Disease Detection and Prevention in Munich, Germany, to name a few.

Shahawy, who is among a growing group of cardiovascular disease prevention specialists researching new ways to identify at-risk patients – and more accurately define that risk, says the future of cardiovascular disease prevention lies in assessment centers like Sarasota Memorial’s, which use sophisticated risk-scoring systems that isolate the most reliable and targeted risk predictors.

“We’re not saying the standard tests are useless … just that they don’t give the most accurate picture of cardiovascular disease possible with today’s advanced technology,” he said. “It’s not unusual for the old Framingham scoring system to label some people low risk when newer tests actually reveal they are high risk.

“It’s time to change the paradigm. Detection of early disease, not merely risk factors, should be our goal.“

Putting Risk in Perspective
Sarasota Memorial’s Cardiovascular Disease Assessment Center, supported by a technology grant from Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, Inc., offers 18 of the latest non-invasive heart, lung and circulation tests available to detect early markers of cardiovascular disease. Most of the people who have sought out the testing have a family history, or risk factors, such as high blood pressure. But most showed no outward signs of heart disease, nor had they been referred for more invasive testing, like an angiogram, to look for signs of actual disease.

For Sarasota Public Hospital Board Chairman Greg Carter, one of the first to complete the assessment, it was an abrupt wake-up call.

“I’ve been on medication for high blood pressure for more than 20 years, so I knew the drill,” Carter said. “But it’s one thing to watch your doctor listen to your heart and talk about risk factors and quite another to see the physical evidence right there in front of your eyes … it was a very ‘in your face’ experience, but one that finally motivated me to make the changes I needed to make.”

About Sarasota Memorial’s Cardiovascular Disease Assessment Center
Sarasota Memorial’s Cardiovascular Disease Assessment Center offers 18 of the latest, non-invasive heart, lung and circulation tests available to detect heart and vascular disease in its earliest – and most preventable – stages. Cost: $329. No physician referral necessary. For information or appointments, call: (941) 917-6969 or visit www.smh.com/heart

Cardiac Disease Assessment Center – Facts at a Glance

Location: Sarasota Memorial’s Heart and Vascular Institute, 1540 S. Tamiami Trail, 2nd Floor, Sarasota

Phone: 917-6969

Medical Director: Sarasota Cardiologist Mahfouz El Shahawy, MD, MS, FESC, FASH, FACC, FAHA

From April 2008-April 2010, the center:

• Evaluated 1,509 patients, mostly self-referred
• 680 males and 829 females
• Age range from 20 to 85
• 57 percent of women and 70 percent of the men were found to be intermediate to high risk for CVD

Supported by a technology grant from Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, Inc., the center conducted ongoing research studies presented at cardiovascular disease prevention symposiums and physician meetings around the world, including:

• The International Cardiovascular Symposium: Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in the 21st Century held in India, October 2008

• The International Cardiovascular Symposium: Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in the 21st Century held in Switzerland, France, Germany and Holland, September 2009

• The Egyptian Society of Cardiology, February 2009 and 2010

• International Conference on Early Disease Detection and Prevention (EDDP), held in Munich, Germany, February 2010.

• American Society of Hypertension, San Francisco, California, May 2009: and New York May 2010

Upcoming presentations include:

• International Academy of Cardiology 15th World Congress on Heart Disease Annual Scientific Sessions 2010, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, July 24-27, 2010.

• Society for Cardiovascular Computed Tomography (SCCT) Fifth Annual Scientific Meeting July 15-18, 2010

• The International Cardiovascular Symposium: Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in the 21st Century to be held in: Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore, Oct. 29-Nov. 6, 2010

About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System
Founded in 1925, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is the second-largest acute care public health system in Florida. With an 806-bed acute care hospital and comprehensive network of outpatient services – pain care, rehabilitation, diagnostic imaging and laboratory, home health and a nursing home among its many services – it is the only not-for-profit hospital in this four-county region. It also is the only hospital in Southwest Florida that consistently ranks among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report and the only one awarded Magnet Nursing Services Recognition – the nation’s highest honor for excellence in nursing.

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