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Aug 26, 2014

Comprehensive Testing Helps Predict Stroke Risk

Study finds that a comprehensive group of common heart tests may better estimate stroke risk in patients.

A comprehensive group of tests may better estimate stroke risk in patients, based on research published in the medical journal Stroke

Conducted in Germany, this study assessed the importance of three common heart tests in estimating stroke risk. The first test included in the study, called a coronary artery calcification (CAC) scan, provides pictures of the heart’s arteries to identify calcium deposits that can increase risk for heart attack and stroke. The second, referred to as a CIMT (carotid intima-media thickness) test, measures thickness of the artery that supplies blood to the brain and the third test, called the ankle-brachial index (ABI) test, compares blood pressure in the ankle and arm. CIMT and ABI can both detect narrowing of the arteries, which increases risk for a cardiac event. 

Although the first test, a CAC scan, is commonly used to estimate an individual’s risk of stroke, experts wondered if the latter two tests should be used in combination to better evaluate cardiovascular risk. Through the Heinz Nixdorf Recall study, researchers enrolled a total of 3,289 patients without a history of stroke into the study, using all three tests to estimate their stroke risk. After following patients for nine years, researchers then assessed how well their tests predicted stroke risk in study participants. 

What researchers found was that using a combination of these tests together often provides better information than each test, alone.  Authors believe that each test provides unique information that helps better estimate an individual’s risk for stroke in the future.  

However, it’s important to note that these tests are not appropriate for all patients. These detailed heart tests are most often used on patients with symptoms of heart disease or those at increased risk for heart disease. And with future research, authors hope to identify exactly which combination of tests is most useful in estimating cardiovascular risk in each patient.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How can I help prevent stroke?

  • There are many things adults can do to help prevent a stroke. First, maintain a healthy blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, visit your physician to properly treat this condition. Maintaining a healthy diet, weight, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake, and quitting smoking (if you are a smoker) can also help significantly lower risk for stroke.
  • What are the different types of stroke?
  • Stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is reduced or blocked. There are three different types of stroke, including ischemic, hemorrhagic, and TIA (transient ischemic attack). Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke and occurs when a clot obstructs blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, often caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure. TIA is often called a “mini stroke,” and occurs when a blood clot temporarily blocks the flow of blood to the brain.


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