October 20, 2016
May 5, 2016
For years you’ve heard about the life-saving benefit of mammograms in detecting breast cancer. Now, new research finds this routine test could also help detect the leading cause of death in U.S. women—heart disease.
A Look At The Numbers
Although heart disease often doesn’t garner the same attention or fear as breast cancer, the American Cancer Society reports breast cancer takes the lives of about 40,000 U.S. women each year. Heart disease, on the other hand, kills more than 292,000 women annually.
A study published in the journal Cardiovascular Imaging suggests digital mammography could actually help reduce a woman’s risk for heart attack and stroke. Here’s why.
When radiologists read mammograms, they look for calcified breast tissue—a possible early sign of breast cancer. In the process, they also observe calcification in breast arteries. This condition, known as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is sign of heart disease.
Researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center, who conducted the study, hope their findings will lead to heart-risk information being routinely added to mammogram reports in the future.
What You Can Do Now
While this is exciting news, you shouldn’t seek a mammogram for the purpose of learning your risk for heart disease. What you can do is have regular check-ups with your doctor, learn all you can about heart disease risks, and take the appropriate actions to modify your lifestyle. Here’s a recap:
Major Risk Factors for Heart Disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Family history
- Unhealthy diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Menopause, due to a decline in estrogen
How to Prevent Heart Disease
- If you smoke, stop. If you don’t smoke, never start.
- Consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats and low in saturated fats. The DASH diet is a good choice.
- Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise, including walking briskly several times a week, has been found to reduce arterial calcification. Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have led a sedentary lifestyle or have chronic health conditions.