Check out these tests – they may save your life

Dr. James de Lemos

Five simple medical tests are better indicators of who will develop heart disease than the standard strategies focused on blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking history, according to conclusions from a UT Southwestern study published last year from the journal Circulation.

“This set of tests is really powerful in identifying unexpected risk among individuals with few traditional risk factors,” said Dr. James de Lemos, Professor of Internal Medicine, who led the study with Dr. Amit Khera, Professor of Internal Medicine.

The findings were based on analysis of two large population studies, including the Dallas Heart Study, a landmark UT Southwestern study that has led to more than 200 published scientific studies. The five tests are:

  • 12-lead EKG: provides information about hypertrophy, or thickening of the heart muscle.
  • Coronary calcium scan, or low-radiation imaging test: identifies calcified plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart.
  • Blood test for C-reactive protein: indicates inflammation.
  • Blood test for the hormone NT-proBNP: indicates stress on the heart.
  • Blood test for high-sensitivity troponin T: indicates small amounts of heart muscle damage that can be detected in people without any symptoms or warning signs.

All five tests are currently available at UT Southwestern and elsewhere, Dr. de Lemos said.

“We recommend this and other similar testing panels be measured selectively rather than routinely, and are best considered for individuals who are interested in as much information as possible about their cardiac risk,” Dr. de Lemos added, stressing that the testing should be monitored by physicians with expertise in interpretation of the results.

Sources: Dr. de Lemos, who holds the Sweetheart Ball‐Kern Wildenthal, M.D., Ph.D. Distinguished Chair in Cardiology, and Dr. Khera, who holds the Dallas Heart Ball Chair in Hypertension and Heart Disease.