Last Minute Gift Idea for Dad: In Memory of NBC's Tim Russert, SHAPE Encourages Families to Give Dads a Heart Attack Prevention Test for Father's Day

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Leading cardiologists from SHAPE (Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication) once again called upon the nation to not trust treadmill stress tests and traditional risk assessment.

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SHAPE is far more accurate than traditional risk factor tests in identifying high risk patients and in need of aggressive medical therapy

From last Father's day to this year's, thousands of American men have been hit by a heart attack. Sadly more than half of them died before reaching a hospital, leaving their loved ones in pain and grief. What is especially sad is that most of these victims could have been alerted to their risk and possibly saved, had they been offered more than the old fashion traditional cardiovascular risk assessment tests. The SHAPE (Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication) urges families to give dads a heart attack prevention test for Father's Day. SHAPE also calls for hospitals, clinics and physicians to offer Father's Day specials with discounted rates.

Heart attack and stroke account for more death and disability than all cancers combined. Multiple screening tests are approved for subclinical cancers such as mammography and colonoscopy. However, none is approved for 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.

"Testing for traditional risk factors and having a normal (average) cholesterol and blood pressure is not enough and does not mean that you will not have a heart attack. In fact over 60 percent of heart attack victims have normal cholesterol. The tragic death of Tim Russert, the host of MSNBC Meet the Press at the productive age of 58 years should serve as a wakeup call for the nation to overhaul its practice and policies for risk assessment and treatment of asymptomatic coronary artery disease" said Dr. Morteza Naghavi, founder and Chairman of SHAPE. "One of the most meaningful Father's Day gifts would be a heart attack preventive screening test, an excellent way to show Dad that you love him and want him to enjoy a long and healthy life."

Every day over 1900 previously healthy-looking individuals arrive at emergency rooms with a 1st-time heart attack. Had they been tested by traditional risk factor assessment based on existing guidelines, about 70% of them would have been considered low to intermediate. Modeled after successful cancer screening efforts, the SHAPE Task force Guideline calls for men 45-75 years and women 55-75 years to undergo screening to assess coronary plaque or carotid wall thickness. It recommends the coronary calcium scan (Heart Scan) or carotid scan (Carotid IMT) - two tests that have proven to be strong predictors of those who are vulnerable to a heart attack or stroke. Preventive exams give healthcare professionals the opportunity to take appropriate action before fatal symptoms appear.

"Screening based on SHAPE that supplements traditional risk factor tests could possibly have saved my late husband's life," said JoAnne Zawitoski, a maritime attorney and board member of the AEHA who is organizing the Golf Fore Heart: Guy Fernandez Memorial
Charity event. "Like Tim (Russert), Guy suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly just days after his physician reported his stress test as normal. He was only 49. On behalf of our two sons, please protect your loved ones by being proactive with your heart health. Know your risk, if you have plaques in your coronary arteries you need aggressive treatment and by doing so you can prevent a heart attack"

The SHAPE Task Force estimated that screening of asymptomatic men and women would have the following potential clinical outcomes:

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

"The key is identifying asymptomatic patients at risk before a critical event occurs. With current medical therapies, we can reduce the chances of having a heart attack or sudden death by approximately 75%," according to Dr. Daniel Berman, Director of Cardiac Imaging at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. "SHAPE is far more accurate than traditional risk factor tests in identifying high risk patients and in need of aggressive medical therapy," according to Dr. Berman.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. According to the Center for Disease Control there will be approximately 700,000 first heart attacks in 2007. Among them some 159,600 men will lose their lives, many within an hour of the event. AEHA urges family members to try and save their father being one of those victims.

About the Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication (SHAPE)
The mission of SHAPE ( is to eradicate heart attack by championing new strategies for 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.

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