Watch Mayo Clinic cardiologists and others discuss many conditions and treatments related to cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular surgery.
The Early Atherosclerosis Clinic at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, offers a comprehensive diagnostic and treatment program for people at risk of early atherosclerosis and for those who have developed atherosclerosis at a relatively young age (men younger than age 55 or women younger than age 65). Atherosclerosis is a condition in which deposits build up in your artery walls, which can restrict blood flow.
Using the latest technology and testing available, doctors trained in heart disease (cardiologists) in the Early Atherosclerosis Clinic can refine your cardiovascular treatment plan and help you more effectively manage your risk of atherosclerosis.
Although there have been advances in the diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis, the condition continues to affect many people. Developing this condition at a relatively young age is especially difficult because serious complications can affect your health and impact your quality of life.
The Early Atherosclerosis Clinic serves people who:
- Have developed complications of atherosclerosis, such as heart attack, stroke or peripheral artery disease (PAD), at a relatively young age.
- Have no symptoms, but have a family history of early atherosclerosis and are concerned about their risk of developing atherosclerosis. A family history of atherosclerosis may include a first-degree relative — a parent, sibling or child — who experienced a heart attack or stroke or developed peripheral artery disease at a relatively young age.
- Have familial hyperlipidemia, such as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), which results from a mutation in one of three genes: LDLR, APOB or PCSK9.
- Have elevated levels of C-reactive protein, lipoprotein (a) or homocysteine in their blood. These are considered novel risk factors for early blood vessel (vascular) disease.
Doctors generally evaluate you for heart disease risk by assessing if you have conventional risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking history. However, these conventional risk assessments may not evaluate family history and newer risk factors.
Atherosclerosis can lead to coronary artery disease, which can cause a heart attack. Because many people who have heart attacks have no prior symptoms of coronary artery disease, Mayo Clinic researchers have developed additional tests to measure new (novel) risk factors and arterial function, with the goal of early detection and treatment.
Only a few medical centers are equipped to perform tests for these novel risk factors. Mayo Clinic combines expanded testing with a comprehensive cardiology consultation and a personalized treatment plan.
The Early Atherosclerosis Clinic offers several services, including:
- Tests to measure novel risk factors. Staff measures levels of markers in your blood associated with increased risk of early atherosclerosis, including C-reactive protein and lipoprotein (a). Learn more about blood tests for heart disease.
- Arterial function tests. These tests assess the health of the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body (arteries), including the function of the inner lining of the arteries (endothelium), the stiffness of arteries and the presence of plaque in the carotid arteries.
- Heart scan. This heart scan measures the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries, which is an indicator of plaque buildup. You'll generally only have this test if you aren't experiencing symptoms but you have a family history of heart disease. People who are experiencing symptoms are known to have plaque buildup in their arteries.
- Genetic testing for familial hyperlipidemia syndromes. Genetic testing can identify mutations causing familial hyperlipidemia and can help in identifying additional family members with the mutation by the use of cascade screening.
- Cardiology consultation. A cardiologist trained in the assessment of cardiovascular risk and treatment of novel risk factors meets with you. Your cardiologist reviews your test results and recommends preventive measures, lifestyle changes, medications — such as lipid-lowering drugs — and, if necessary, procedures such as angioplasty or surgery.
Mayo Clinic researchers helped develop the novel cardiovascular risk marker panel and arterial function tests, which are valuable tests used to assess your cardiovascular risk. Research focuses on newer methods of detecting people at risk of early-onset cardiovascular disease and studying how those people can benefit from early, aggressive intervention. Researchers also study the potential use of genetic information in estimating cardiovascular risk. Researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial of a disclosing genetic risk score for heart attack.
Learn more about research in the Cardiovascular Research Center.