For women ages 40 and over, annual mammograms are a routine part of their health care. This sophisticated imaging technology is an essential tool in helping to detect breast cancer, and early detection can help people win the battle against cancer.
In addition to playing a vital role in breast health, new research shows that mammograms may also help identify heart disease, which is the primary cause of death for women in the United States.
Detecting Increased Risk for Heart Disease
A mammogram can detect calcification in the breast arteries. Calcification indicates a buildup of calcium, which can cause the arteries to narrow and harden, making it difficult for blood to pass through.
A recent study by Dr. Laurie Margolies of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York found that in 70 percent of mammograms in which the breast arteries were calcified, the coronary (heart) arteries were also calcified. Coronary arteries that are calcified signify an elevated risk for heart attack or stroke.
Raising Awareness about Women’s Cardiovascular Health
If a routine mammogram can help detect calcification in the breast arteries, this can prompt women to schedule a visit with their cardiologist for follow-up treatment. Hardening of the arteries is often symptomless and many women aren’t aware of their risk for heart disease, so those who wouldn’t otherwise be screened for cardiovascular disease may benefit from this new method of detection.