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January 24, 2001
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Hopkins "Heart Health" Offers Ultrafast CT Scanning

– Catches Heart Disease Before Symptoms Occur

Physicians at Johns Hopkins now have an added weapon in the fight against heart disease – a scanner that detects potential problems before symptoms occur.

The device uses electron beam computed tomography (EBT) and, in a five-minute test, can take up to 40 pictures of the heart between beats while patients remain fully clothed. The images show early calcium buildup, or plaque, which appears as white specks in the walls of arteries.

Left untreated, these specks can spread until they severely block the vessels leading to the heart. By determining the amount of calcification, cardiologists can predict more accurately a person’s risk of a cardiac event, such as heart attack or stroke, over the next five years.

"Traditional stress tests on a treadmill only pick up heart arteries that are at least 60 percent obstructed by plaque, when angioplasty or bypass surgery may be imminent," says Roger S. Blumenthal, M.D., director of Hopkins’ Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. "EBT can detect plaque in its earliest stages, when lifestyle factors like changes in diet, more aerobic exercise and use of medications to optimize cholesterol and blood pressure levels may be enough to prevent further spread of disease."

Hopkins is offering the scans through Heart Health, a comprehensive, medically supervised initiative designed to teach people how to exercise safely, eat a heart-healthy diet and manage heart disease risk factors. The program, based at the Maryland Athletic Club in Timonium, offers comprehensive fitness and risk factor testing for healthier individuals.

The ultrafast CT scanner is located adjacent to Heart Health in the LifeTest preventive health center.

-- JHMI --
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