Today, individuals don’t have to die of a heart attack. That’s the message nationally-acclaimed preventive cardiologist pioneer Arthur Agatston, MD, FACC, impressed upon a captive audience of more than 90 HMG physicians and mid-level providers at Holston Medical Group’s annual provider retreat held at the Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC.
“As we like to say, heart disease is the number one killer,” explains Agatston. “But it doesn’t have to kill you.”
According to Agatston, today—not tomorrow—today, we have the medical knowledge and ability to prevent the great majority of heart attacks and strokes.
“Right now we have the noninvasive—no cutting, no pain, no recovery required—diagnostic techniques that can identify people who are at high risk for developing coronary artery disease, so that they can be treated early,” explains Agatston, referring to advanced lipid testing and revolutionary diagnostic imaging technology like the 64-slice CT scan of the heart.
Along with his reputation as a researcher, lecturer, and pioneer in clinical and preventive cardiology, Agatston is well known as the author of the best-selling The South Beach Diet. He is also an associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“I applaud you,” complimented Agatston, speaking of Holston Medical Group. “It’s not often that you see a group that has take taken the bull by the horns and is really being so creative in addressing heart disease. I think your story should be told.”
HMG’s life-saving preventive cardiology approach is nearly identical to the aggressive measures of Dr. Agatston. The measures, aimed at detecting, preventing and even reversing heart disease, include: heart-healthy eating, exercise, advanced diagnostic and lipid testing, and the latest “heart-protective medications.”
HMG Founder Jerry L. Miller, MD, says his wholehearted endorsement of Agatston’s research is evidenced by HMG’s purchase of more than 250 copies of The South Beach Heart Program.
“I think your dedication to the overall profession is just exemplary,” begins Miller. “I must say, HMG is going to be on your doorstep because we want to learn from you and be able to implement your research and findings. This is going to save lives.”
Agatston’s findings reveal the fallacy of today’s current reactionary approach to cardiac disease—after the disease is already advanced. Instead, the best preventive measure is an aggressive approach aimed at early identification of patients who are at high risk for a heart attack, many who are seemingly healthy and yet are headed for a massive coronary event.
“The Calcium Score is the best single predictor of who is destined for a heart attack in the future,” affirms Agatston.
Step 3 of Agatston’s 4-step plan is that of “getting the right diagnostic tests.” The South Beach Heart Program recommends patients undergo a coronary calcium scan to determine their “Calcium Score,” known also as the “Agatston Score.” This advanced CT scan, performed in minutes, provides an incredible view of the amount of hard, calcified plaque a patient has accumulated in his arteries. The greater the amount of plaque, the higher the Calcium Score and the higher the risk.
“I like to think of the heart scan as the ‘mammogram of the heart’ and believe that if it is widely used as a screening tool, like the mammogram, it will save many lives.”
Holston Medical Group was the first in the region to introduce the calcium score heart scan, utilizing its 64-slice CT with cardiac capabilities.
Agatston emboldened HMG providers to continue their course of promoting prevention, encouraging heart-healthy wellness initiatives and advanced lipid and diagnostic testing.