CEOs often represent the demographic group at the greatest risk for heart attacks because 49 percent of males will develop coronary heart disease after age 40, as will 32 percent of females. While diet, exercise, quitting smoking and stress management can help to reduce the chances of developing coronary heart disease, new technology has been developed that helps find potential problems and fix them before a heart attack actually occurs.
More than 60 percent of the people who come into the emergency room during a heart attack have never had any previous symptoms, says Dr. Oscar Matthews, medical director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at the Western Medical Center, Anaheim.
Smart Business spoke with Matthews about the best way for CEOs to insure cardiac health through lifestyle and a pro-active testing regimen.
What are the best ways for CEOs to prevent heart disease?
Due to the nature of their jobs, CEOs often have the opportunity to eat frequent meals that can be higher in fat and calories. I always advise eating slowly and taking small bites. This helps ‘fool the brain’ into thinking that your stomach is actually fuller than it really is, so it is important not to rush through meals. Also, stress reduction is very important for executives. You need to set aside time for relaxation which is accompanied by positive imaging and doesn’t include thoughts about work or pending business deals.
What types of diagnostic testing are available to help spot heart disease in its early stages?
One of the basic tests is the treadmill. The executive is connected to a monitor while walking on a treadmill. These types of tests have been around for awhile, but electrocardiogram tests alone are less than 60 percent effective in diagnosing coronary heart disease.
What is nuclear testing and how is it used?
We inject isotopes into the patient’s vein during a session of rigorous exercise. We are able to capture sophisticated images of the heart and the cardiac muscle as the isotope passes through the bloodstream and lodges in the cardiac chamber. The images are then analyzed for potential defects.
A normal cardiac muscle almost resembles a doughnut. If part of the muscle is not receiving a good supply of blood during the test, we will be able to see it in the image because a portion of the muscle will appear to be missing almost as if someone has taken a bite out of the doughnut.
What happens if the test reveals problems?
If the imaging reveals potential blockages in the arteries, a coronary angiogram can be conducted to determine the extent of the blockage. A small puncture is made in the groin and using a catheter as fine as a hair, we advance into the chambers of the heart and the coronary arteries. There we inject contrast media (dye) from the catheter and illuminate the coronary arteries of the heart for imaging.
If we find that the arteries are less than 50 percent blocked, we normally recommend behavior modification and send the patient home and continue to monitor their progress annually.
If we find that the arteries are between 51 to 70 percent blocked, this is a gray area and one that can be difficult to diagnose. In these cases, we recommend an intervention to evaluate the lesions by performing an endovascular ultrasound that utilizes highly sophisticated equipment. Due to tissue characterization, some of these lesions may require the implantation of a stent which is also required to repair blockages in larger arteries or in cases where the artery is more than 70 percent blocked. The stent is a device that helps hold the artery open and prevents it from re-closing. We place a sealer on the groin after the procedure and most patients are able to go home in three hours.
How often should CEOs be tested?
Executives should plan on being tested every two years after the age of 40, especially if you are overweight, smoke or have other high-risk factors. The test should be conducted using state-of-the-art equipment and should be read by an expert in nuclear cardiology, both of which are available here at Western Medical Center. This type of testing improves the level of diagnostic accuracy up to 90 percent.
OSCAR MATTHEWS, M.D., is medical director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at the Western Medical Center in Anaheim. Reach him at email@example.com. For more information about Western Medical Center Anaheim, go to the Web sites www.westernmedanaheim.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.