SHAPE Applauds Dallas Heart Study Researchers for Independent Confirmation that Screening According to SHAPE Guidelines Detects High Risk Patients Missed by Existing Practices

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Heart attacks and strokes account for more death and disability than all cancers combined. While multiple screening tests are approved for early detection of subclinical cancers, no tests are officially approved for detection of subclinical atherosclerosis, which underlies both heart attack and stroke. This void leaves many individuals - even those with severe atherosclerosis -unaware of their risk because they have no symptoms. In this context, leading cardiologists from the Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication applaud the efforts of Dallas Heart Study researchers who discovered existing national heart attack prevention guidelines missed 27% of patients with plaque buildups in their heart providing important evidence that inexpensive imaging tests can identify patients at risk and lead to strategies that will prevent heart attacks. Independent of SHAPE, researchers with the Dallas Heart Study have confirmed that the most effective way to identify at-risk individuals is not to measure risk factors but to detect the underlying disease itself, atherosclerosis, as suggested by the SHAPE Guidelines.

Leading cardiologists from the Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication applaud the efforts of Dallas Heart Study researchers who discovered existing national heart attack prevention guidelines missed 27% of patients with plaque buildups in their heart and offered them no therapeutic protections when compared to the SHAPE guidelines.

"Every day over 1900 previously healthy-looking individuals arrive at emergency rooms with a 1st-time heart attack. Using traditional risk assessment guidelines, about 80% of them would have been considered to be at low to intermediate risk prior to their heart attack " said Dr. Morteza Naghavi, Chairman of the SHAPE, Task Force.

"It has been obvious for some time that new strategies are needed to fight the growing epidemic of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Continuing to do what we have done in the past 20 years, while useful, will not suffice. Heart attack has been the number one killer in this country for decades. To change the status quo we need to change the way we think and practice." added Dr. Naghavi

Heart attacks and strokes account for more death and disability than all cancers combined. Multiple screening tests are approved for early detection of subclinical cancers such as mammography for breast cancer and colonoscopy for colon cancer. However, no tests are officially approved for detection of subclinical atherosclerosis, which underlies both heart attack and stroke. This void leaves many individuals - even those with severe atherosclerosis -unaware of their risk because they have no symptoms.

"The publication of the results of the UT Southwestern team's findings, where investigators used the SHAPE Guidelines without the involvement of the members of the SHAPE initiative, gives us hope that we can continue to build new momentum in cardiology that inspires physicians to use modern imaging technologies for early detection of subclinical atherosclerosis so that individuals at risk can be identified and aggressively targetted for the prevention of heart attack and stroke. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of treatment after a heart attack," said Dr. P.K. Shah, director, Division of Cardiology and Atherosclerosis Research Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and a member of the non-profit SHAPE Board of Directors.

Though the Dallas Heart Study made no predictions about clinical outcomes, the study's findings relative to risk assessment and treatment underscore the original conclusions of the SHAPE Task Force which produced the SHAPE Guideline. That same SHAPE Task Force estimated that atherosclerosis screening of an appropriate subset of asymptomatic men and women could lead to the following potential clinical outcomes:

  • prevent more than 90,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease each year.
  • reduce the population with a history of heart attack - currently estimated to be 13.2 million - by as much as 25 percent.
  • save approximately $21.5 billion annually by saving those at highest risk, most of whom are unaware of the danger they are facing.

"While nearly half of individuals who have heart attacks or sudden death don't even know they have disease, we already have treatments that could prevent a the majority of these catastrophic events. This Dallas Heart Study publication provides important evidence that inexpensive imaging tests can identify patients at risk and lead to preventive strategies that will prevent heart attacks," said Dr. Daniel Berman, director of Cardiac Imaging at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a member of the SHAPE Board of Directors.

"Traditional risk factors play a major role in the development of heart attack and stroke, but they fail to reliably identify individuals who are at risk and consequently need preventive therapy. The main reason is that the individual susceptibility to risk factors varies greatly; some individuals have susceptible arteries whereas others have strong and resistant arteries. Consequently, the most effective way to identify at-risk individuals is not to measure risk factors but to detect the underlying disease itself, atherosclerosis, as suggested by the SHAPE Guidelines - and it was indeed confirmed by the Dallas Heart Study." said Dr. Erling Falk, a pioneering cardiovascular pathologist from Aarhus University in Denmark who coordinated the Writing Group of the original SHAPE Task Force and who continues service to SHAPE on its Board.

About the Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication (SHAPE)

The mission of SHAPE is to eradicate heart attack by championing new strategies for early detection and prevention while advancing the scientific quest for a cure. SHAPE visualizes a world free from the threat of heart attack. The goals of SHAPE are to reduce the instances of heart attack - especially in the asymptomatic patient - through education programs presented to both healthcare professionals and the community. SHAPE believes that education and ongoing research are key elements in the success of programs designed to go beyond the norm in the early detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease which include:

-Education and dissemination of the SHAPE Guidelines designed to find and assist all individuals who are at risk for heart attack - with special focus on the asymptomatic individual. SHAPE is, in fact, the only heart health organization dedicated to at-risk, asymptomatic individuals.
-SHAPE Symposia for cardiovascular professionals conducted twice a year that review current medical research and trends.
-SHAPE Public Education Programsincluding a leading-edge interactive website where both medical professionals and the community can access the latest research in the battle to defeat heart attack.
-The SHAPE Clinic, our signature initiative, will help conduct, standardize and proliferate non-invasive screening of all asymptomatic men 45-75 years of age and asymptomatic women 55-75 years of age to detect those with subclinical atherosclerosis and direct them toward preventative treatment. These are the very individuals who, currently, are arriving in our ERs with unpredicted sudden heart attack.
-Professional education for the development of the "polypill" and a vaccine for atherosclerosis as future population-based strategies for the eradication of heart attack.

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George Marshall Worthington


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