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Combating Heart Disease In Women

One in three women have some form of heart disease, so what are the best screening methods to detect a problem?

Dr. Jennifer Ashton shared the top three heart tests every woman should know about with Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez.

  • Stress Echocardiogram: This is a stress test, Ashton explains, with the benefit of an ultrasound that looks at how the heart functions. This test is thought to be more accurate especially for women than the conventional stress test that just uses an EKG to tell us about the heart.
  • Screening Ultrasound: According to Ashton, the screening ultrasound looks at the main artery in the neck - the carotid artery to see how thick it is.

    "That thickness is thought to be correlated with an increase risk to heart disease," Ashton said.

  • CT Scan: This looks at the calcium in the coronary arteries, Ashton explains, which can be linked to an increase risk of heart disease.

    These three tests are non-invasive, and the Stress Echocardiogram and Screening Ultrasound don't use radiation.

    Ashton also points out that these tests are not for women unless they have symptoms of heart disease or are at high risk.

    "The key here is to identify patients who are at intermediate risk because the high risk patients will be screened anyway," she said. "Ninety percent of physicians do not realize that heart disease is the number one killer of women. We all need to be concerned about this."

    Should women have all three tests or just one?

    Ashton says it depends on your cardiologist.

    "You're going to be seeing more about these imaging tests. This is very important for all women to know about," she said.

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