A recent study has made a very interesting finding in women’s health screenings. The study found that almost 70 percent of mammograms that show breast arterial calcification (hardening of the arteries) correlated with the presence of hardened heart arteries. Why is this finding so important? In the future, women may be able to get “two for the price of one” as it relates to prevention screenings. If there is calcification in the arteries of the breast, there is a likelihood of calcification in the arteries of the heart – which is a major risk for heart attacks.
Since heart disease is the number one killer of women, any help we can get in predicting or treating heart disease early is key. “This can save women’s lives,” says Dr. Laurie Margolies, lead study author and Director of Breast Imaging at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Potentially, we can decrease the number of women having heart attacks or strokes in their 50s, 60s and 70s by looking at their mammograms in their 40s and 50s.” Looking for artery blockage during mammograms could indicate heart disease in women who are asymptomatic and wouldn’t otherwise be getting screened for cardiovascular problems.
It is important to note that you shouldn’t rely solely on a mammogram to determine your heart disease risk. The major risk factors for heart disease continue to be hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, family history, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle. Regular check-ups with your primary care physician is the best first line of defense. But in the future your routine mammogram could do double-duty as a screening for heart disease risk.
“What we are presenting and advocating for is a successful way, with no extra money or extra radiation, of determining a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease at the same time she would be screened for breast cancer.”
The doctor’s at The Woman’s Clinic want you to be aware of your risk factors for heart disease. If you have any of the risk factors listed above, make an appointment and take control of your health!