Think a stress test and a simple blood workup are all you need to assess your heart attack risk? Wrong.
Carotid Intimal Medial Thickness Test
How It Works: This “ultrasound of the neck” takes a picture of the left and right carotid arteries, which supply blood to your head and brain. After putting a gel on your neck, a technician glides an ultrasound transducer over your carotids to measure the thickness of the arteries’ lining.
Cost: $150 to $500
Duration: 15 minutes
Why It’s Heart Smart: Studies show a link between abnormal thickness of the carotid lining and coronary artery disease. “This test can detect even the earliest stages, before blood flow is blocked,” says Dr. Agatston. Because it’s not an x-ray, it’s also helpful for women who are or may be pregnant.
Get It If: You’re 40 or older–or you’re under 40 and a close relative (parents or siblings) had a heart attack or stroke before age 55.
What the Results Mean: You’ll get two numbers: the thickness of your carotid lining (normal is less than 1.06 mm) and your “arterial age,” an estimate of how that thickness compares to that of healthy women your age. If your arteries are more than 8 years “older” than you are, your doctor can tailor treatment to reduce your risk.
Next Steps: A diet and exercise plan, stress reduction, and, if necessary, drugs to lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar and reduce your intimal medial thickness.