Coronary Artery Disease without symptoms at a young age

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Submitted by Dr T on January 6, 2013 – 12:47pm

Question: 
I saw a piece on CNN about perfectly healthy people dying of heart attacks due to plaque in arteries.  Even people that passed stress tests with flying colors.  How can one test of plaque?  Would an echocardiogram pick it up?  I had one done a couple years ago and my results were normal.  Does this mean I probably don’t have plaque build up?  

Hi Heather,
You misread the article: These patients were indeed supposedly healthy but had previously undiagnosed coronary artery disease (CAD) secondary to atherosclerosis. In someone who is otherwise healthy and w/o symptoms the diagnosis may be difficult to make, especially if not seen by a doctor. However, it is unlikely that besides cholesterol, appropriate testing for heart disease would not have demonstrated CAD in all these patients, but it requires a suspicious patient & doctor, a careful history and an examination! The first patient in the story had symptoms, but did not recognise his “indigestion” for what it was: a heart attack in progress.

I have written about CAD in young patients before. It happens, but not without mostly preventable risk factors! This is what you can do. To see if you are at risk, check this cardiac risk assesment link

Hope this helps,
Dr T

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