Posted on May 14, 2009, 9 a.m.
By gary clark
A study has found that only 19 percent of people with coronary heart disease are diagnosed with heart problems during routine screening.
In the United States, approximately 15.8 million adults aged 20 or older suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD). And every year, approximately 450,000 people die from the disease. Despite its widespread prevalence, a study conducted by researchers from Oregon, Maryland and Delaware and published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice reveals that only one in five heart problems are diagnosed before symptoms appear.
Of the 13,877 people who participated in the study, just over 11 percent had been diagnosed with heart disease. However, as the researchers found, only 19 percent of those individuals indicated that their CHD had been picked up during routine screening. In addition, 54 percent of the diabetic patients with heart disease who took part in the study said that their CHD was diagnosed when they became symptomatic. An additional 22 percent of the diabetic patients said that their physicians found the disease when they were treated for other health issues. In those study participants who did not have diabetes, 48 percent were diagnosed with heart disease when they became symptomatic and 15 percent were picked up during treatment for other conditions.
"Our study showed that not enough patients with heart disease are being picked up during routine screening or treatment for conditions like diabetes, which are commonly associated with heart problems," says lead author Dr. Sandra J. Lewis from the Northwest Cardiovascular Institute in Portland, Oregon. "The majority of those who took part in the study were not diagnosed until they started displaying symptoms." And she adds, "Many individuals do not show symptoms and go undiagnosed until the disease is in an advanced state, often when they have actually had a heart attack."
In addition, the researchers analyzed results from the five-year SHIELD study (Study to Help Improve Early evaluation and management of risk factor Leading to Diabetes), which was sent to 211,097 U.S. households, to see if ongoing recommendations for improved screening in the U.S. had resulted in more patients being diagnosed with heart disease before they became symptomatic. Co-author Dr Kathleen Fox from Strategic Healthcare Solutions in Monkton, Maryland, says that the researchers found that "only a small percentage of the SHIELD respondents were diagnosed through screening. This indicates that there is a missed opportunity to diagnose heart disease during earlier, less severe stages of the disease." And she adds, "Despite increased knowledge and awareness of the risk factors for CHD, many individuals are not diagnosed with heart disease until they are symptomatic. Our study demonstrates the need for improved targeted education aimed at both patients and doctors to reduce heart disease before symptoms occur."