Pros and cons of heart test


A chara, – I thank Dr Susan Connolly (March 29th) for her observations on George Lee’s Heart of the Matter documentary (RTÉ, March 7th). But, I beg to disagree with her.

This documentary was based on an extensive review of the published medical literature on this topic. The results were confirmed by world-leading cardiologists. Neither the programme, nor the IHDA on its website said that everyone should have this test. The value of the test is that, for the vast majority of people in the middle-risk category, it clarifies whether they have heart disease and whether they are at high or low risk.

Middle risk is where most heart attacks occur. Knowing their personal risk, individuals can match intensity of treatment with intensity of risk. For those who do this, it can reduce their risk of heart attack by 85-90 per cent. For those who don’t, up to half may not survive their first heart attack.

This is where calcium scoring does an exceptional job when added to the current risk assessment approach. It is a better predictor of the risk of heart attack than all the current risk factors – combined. It can identify up to 90 per cent of people who are most at risk of having a heart attack, so it can fix the shortcomings in the current approach, especially in the middle risk category.

Some 4,904 people died from ischaemic heart disease in 2011 and 2,035 from stroke. These are the two largest causes of death in Ireland.Some 70 per cent of deaths from heart attack are caused by plaque rupture. That is 10 people a day.

Cardiologists’ indifference (opposition?) to this evidence is particularly astonishing when the European Society of Cardiologists and the American Heart Association have endorsed the prognostic value of this test.

It is the responsibility of government to take action to screen for heart disease using this test. Until it does, there is a simple action that every individual can take which will save thousands of lives every year and extend our healthy life years and life expectancy.

That simple action is: visit your GP. Ask him or her to assess your heart health using the existing risk methods. If you are in middle risk, ask for the calcification test and find out whether you have this disease. If you have, take your GP’s recommended treatment that can reduce your risk of heart attack by 90 per cent.

How many more people need to die of heart disease and stroke – the biggest individual killers in Ireland and globally – before our sickness/ disease-treatment system refocuses itself to reimbursing prevention so that our medical profession can get paid to keep more of us healthy and away from the need for expensive cardiology procedures? – Is mise,


Director, Irish Heart Disease


Rathdown Crescent,

Terenure, Dublin 6W.