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In the study, published online May 31 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, researchers looked at 161 people who came to a single emergency department. More than 93 percent of the patients were black. None had symptoms or a history of heart disease but 94 percent had a history of high blood pressure, or "hypertension."
Echocardiograms (an image of the heart) revealed that nearly 91 percent of the patients had the beginnings of heart disease despite the lack of symptoms. Most of the patients with heart disease had diastolic dysfunction, which means that the heart had a reduced ability to pump blood to the body, brain and lungs.
"These results present a tremendous opportunity to screen for heart disease before it becomes symptomatic, especially in a population with high rates of hypertension," lead author Dr. Phillip Levy, of the department of emergency medicine at Wayne State University in Detroit, said in a journal news release.
"If we can detect incipient [early] heart disease early, we have a better shot at treating it before it turns into a full-blown health emergency. Our study is also a strong reminder that emergency patients with chronic disease -- in this case, hypertension -- are generally a high-risk group," he noted.
Levy urged emergency physicians to address high blood pressure with patients. "Blood pressure readings are taken for every patient in the [emergency department]. By not just taking in new information but also acting on it, we can substantively contribute to . . . disease prevention efforts," he said.
-- Robert Preidt
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
SOURCE: Annals of Emergency Medicine, news release, June 5, 2012
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