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Standard assessments miss early signs of cardiovascular disease in firefighters
Date:5/1/2014

Traditional first-line checks of such heart disease risk factors as cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking habits aren't nearly good enough to identify cardiovascular disease in otherwise healthy, young firefighters, according to results of a small Johns Hopkins study.

Previous studies have found that cardiovascular disease accounts for 45 percent of deaths of on-duty firefighters nationwide, in contrast to 15 percent of deaths among those with conventional occupations, with heart attack being the number one cause of death. The Johns Hopkins researchers designed their study to identify firefighters at risk long before they show symptoms or have a heart attack. One such method, they report, is cardiovascular imaging.

"If we had just done traditional risk factor assessments, we would have missed each one of those firefighters who we discovered were at risk for a cardiovascular event," says study leader Elizabeth V. Ratchford, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Vascular Medicine.

"These were young firefighters, with an average age of 46, who were otherwise healthy. By looking beyond the traditional methods of determining risk and using imaging, we were able to find plaque buildup in the coronary and carotid arteries or thickening of the carotid artery in the majority of the firefighters we studied," she adds.

A report on the research is published in the May 1 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

M. Dominique Ashen, Ph.D., C.R.N.P., a nurse practitioner in the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins and another study leader, says that a traditional risk assessment for cardiovascular disease involves checking blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight; evaluating for diabetes; taking a family history; calculating the 10-year risk of having a cardiovascular event; and aski
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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