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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/ 3/2011

Healthy adults getting unneeded heart screenings

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

If a doctor suggests you get some kind of screening procedure to make sure your cardiovascular system's in good shape, you just do it, right?

That's how I have treated my own heart health; I figure the more I know about it, the better.

But a report issued Thursday morning by Consumer Reports shows that a whopping 44 percent of healthy adults (those who have no history of heart disease and who have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels) have had heart-health screening procedures that they didn't really need. The report also notes that few of us question the need for screening, whether by blood-pressure check, EKG or C-reactive protein test. And still fewer of us seem to care about the potential risks of such screenings, which include unneeded followup screenings, tests and treatments.

Unnecessary screenings of course add to the burden of health-care costs, something we Americans well know need to be contained. But it's hard to think globally when it's your own ticker's health in question. To help put things in perspective, Consumer Reports has provided ratings for nine common cardiovascular screening tests, showing which ones are worthwhile and which, well, aren't so much.

In Consumer Reports' assessment, cholesterol and blood-pressure screenings provide substantial benefit at little cost and with little risk to the patient. At the other end of the spectrum, screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm is deemed to provide no benefit, though its cost is substantial.

What's your experience with cardiovascular screening tests? Have you been offered screening you felt wasn't necessary? Have you asked your doctor if you could do without? Or do you feel your life was saved by a screening procedure?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | February 3, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cardiovascular Health, Chronic Conditions, medical costs, screening  
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Comments

It is not unusual for patients to balk at what they may feel is unnecessary testing. Dr. Mitchell Krucoff has pioneered research in several areas including complementary therapies in patients with heart disease. He will be discussing many of the noetic theraputic impacts,and other modalities at the One Path Summit, in Atlanta, GA.
For more information go to www.onepathsummit.com.

Posted by: jddoyle57 | February 4, 2011 5:02 AM | Report abuse

I am 62 yrs old. I had consistent borderline BP and Chol, 135/90 and 200 respectively. I never had a test for heart disease. In June of 2010 I suffered a STEMI (widow maker) that I barely survived. Now I have an EF of 30% and an ICD. I had yearly visits to my DR. Perhaps this could have been avoided with some tests.

Posted by: aldercottage | February 4, 2011 8:26 AM | Report abuse

The key to testing is to talk to your doctor.
Does he or she think you have a condition that needs to be identified by the test? If you don't have any problems you are aware of, and he or she doesn't think you have any conditions that would require treatment, then additional testing is an unnecessary expense.

Posted by: mhoust | February 4, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

My experience, and those of other women I know, has been quite the opposite. Despite having a heart murmur and hard to control hypertension for years, I didn't get my first EKG until I was in my mid-thirties. Despite the fact that the EKG showed an unexplained abnormality, I wasn't referred for follow up by a cardiologist for 12 years.

Posted by: carlaclaws | February 4, 2011 9:16 AM | Report abuse

My experience, and those of other women I know, has been quite the opposite. Despite having a heart murmur and hard to control hypertension for years, I didn't get my first EKG until I was in my mid-thirties. Despite the fact that the EKG showed an unexplained abnormality, I wasn't referred for follow up by a cardiologist for 12 years.

Posted by: carlaclaws | February 4, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

After my younger brother died of a massive heart attack, I decided to get a Cat Scan of the heart to check for calcium build-up. The next one was to check for an aortic aneurysm after my father had emergency surgery. Two more Cat Scans over the last ten years, until I was quite shocked when my BC/BS health insurance informed on how much radiation one receives in those Cat Scans. One Cat Scan can be equal to 500 chest x-rays. I have stopped worrying about the aneurysm and worry about potential cancer caused by all that radiation.
I only hope the doctor wasn't just trying to pay off the cost of his Cat Scan machine while putting me in potential danger.

Posted by: Aarky | February 9, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

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