Carotid Intima Media Thickness (CIMT) is a measurement of the thickness of the wall of the carotid artery, the artery in the neck that feeds blood to the brain. CIMT is an advanced ultrasound test which is safe and non-invasive.
CIMT gives us important information regarding the risk for heart disease and stroke. The test measures the thickness of the inner two layers of the carotid artery—the intima and media. Even before plaque forms and narrows the arteries, the artery can be injured or stressed by increased blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol along with many other risk factors. The more severe the thickness of the layers, the higher the risk for future events. The test can also detect plaque build-up in the walls of the artery (fatty deposits and calcium) which is even more important. When there is thickness or plaque in one artery it can be happening in other arteries also. This is the start of ATHEROSCLEROSIS or hardening of the arteries. This can be happening even without any warning sign.
It can be scary to uncover something in our arteries that could signal future heart disease or stroke. The good news is that early detection gives you a chance to make important changes, guided by your healthcare provider, to reduce or reverse your risk. The goal is to detect problems early and get the proper help to prevent and reverse any damage.
CIMT is a well-studied ultrasound test to help detect pre-clinical vascular disease. With improvements in technology, it has become possible to reproduce measurements and provide a safe, non-invasive and cost-effective way to track vascular health over time.
WHAT FACTORS CAN LEAD TO HEART DISEASE AND WHO SHOULD BE TESTED?
The traditional heart risk factors of blood pressure, diabetes or pre-diabetes, high cholesterol and tobacco can still misidentify your risk. Especially if you have a family history of premature artery disease such as heart attack, peripheral vascular disease or stroke.
Health challenges such as obesity, sleep apnea, hormone imbalance (including thyroid), autoimmune disease, toxins, stress, steroid use and depression can all increase heart and stroke risk. If you had high blood pressure or blood sugar problems during pregnancy, you would benefit from monitoring your risk factors closely to reduce future risk. Also, men with erectile dysfunction should consider checking their vascular health with CIMT.
Some additional cardiac health factors to consider:
- How healthy is your diet?
- Do you exercise regularly?
- Is your body at a healthy weight and body composition?
- Are you stressed?
- Do you snore?
- Are your teeth and gums healthy?
WHERE DO I START IF MY CIMT IS ELEVATED?
• Discuss the results with your health care provide. This is very important so your personal medical condition can be considered.
• Tracking blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are critical. There are also advanced blood tests that can help uncover special risk factors
• Lifestyle factors can greatly impact your heart health. While lifestyle improvements will not create instant change there are many things you can do to reduce risk in the long term. Eliminating any tobacco use is critical.
If you are interested in a unique cardiac screening we offer several options to help reduce risk factors as well as educate and empower you to be at your healthiest.
For more information or to schedule a CIMT contact our office at 517-324-9400 or visit our website.
Dr. Alicia Williams is a Board Certified Cardiologist specializing in Integrative Cardiology.