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What You Should Know Before You Get Your Heart Tested

Cardiovascular Diseases

This article has been archived. We will no longer be updating it. For our most up-to-date information, please visit our heart disease information here.

Coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease, is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits, or plaque, in the arteries supplying the heart with blood and oxygen. Because CAD can be life threatening, it is important to get checked if you have symptoms so you can rule out your risk of this disease.

Before you get your heart tested, there is some important information that you need to know about the tests for diagnosing CAD. After all, we don't want to subject ourselves to risks like 13 years' worth of radiation at one time from these CAD imaging tests unless we really need to.

Women Are Being Exposed to More and More Radiation

Since 1980, U.S. patients have experienced a six-fold increase in radiation exposure from medical imaging, such as chest x-rays, MRIs, or PET scans. Nearly 40% of this exposure (excluding radiotherapy) is related to cardiovascular imaging and and invasive cardiac procedures. This is a major problem for women considering their breast tissue is more susceptible to damage caused by radiation. Such exposure can increase their risk of cancer.

A Woman's Anatomy Can Affect the Accuracy of Many CAD Tests

Also keep in mind most tests for CAD, like imaging scans, do not take into consideration some of the cardiovascular differences between men and women thus resulting in higher false negative and positive rates in women. For instance, certain parts of women's bodies, including smaller hearts and fatty breast tissue – the very things we want to protect – can affect the accuracy of common CAD imaging tests. Because of this women often undergo multiple and sometimes unnecessary repeat tests, each with its own risks.

Did you know that a nuclear stress test, a common test for CAD, can expose you to the same amount of radiation as 39 mammograms? We need to empower ourselves with information like this to ask for safer testing options when appropriate. There are other options for women.

Be your own heart advocate and prevent unnecessary radiation exposure and invasive tests by exploring the best CAD diagnostic testing option for you.

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