The reader continued, “I had none personally [doctor] who cared so much about my well-being and who knew the benefits of the CCS, chances are I would soon have a massive heart attack and not be writing this. I am indebted to my doctor and I thank you and Dr. Sadlo for winning this non-invasive procedure that saved my life.”
Let me clear up some confusion and concerns about why the CCS is not covered by most health insurance plans.
It is normal for new tests to take some time to be approved for insurance payout. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that new tests often incur additional costs, and it is a natural business decision to resist new expenses for as long as possible until the evidence is overwhelming that certain tests should be covered as part of basic health care.
The out-of-pocket cost for the CCS varies, but is about $100. The above letter, plus many testimonials from Sadlo’s patients, make it pretty clear to me that the money has been well spent.
Another obstacle is that the CCS measures calcified plaque in the heart arteries. Plaque is first deposited in the arteries as a “mushy mass” of cholesterol and other debris. Over the years, calcium penetrates these mushy plaques, cementing them in place, hence the term “hardening of the arteries.” The problem with considering the results of a CCS is that you could have significant blockages in your arteries that are still in the mushy stage and would not be detected with a CCS.
This, in turn, could give a false sense of heart health with a CCS score of zero.
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But even with this limitation, the CCS test is still an extremely valuable tool. In addition, almost all tests have some limitations. For example, the blood pressure in my arm can be very different from the blood pressure in my ankle. If so, it could indicate serious vascular problems. Does this mean it’s not worth measuring the blood pressure in my arm because it says nothing about what’s happening in my ankle? Or does this mean that this limitation is noticed and additional measures need to be taken? The answer is obvious.
Does resistance and strength training help reduce heart disease?
Throughout my more than 50-year career, cardio exercise has taken center stage when it comes to promoting cardiovascular health and extending life. Resistance training, including weightlifting, has always been an “add-on,” meaning you first need to make sure you’re doing your cardio exercise regularly according to established guidelines. This includes at least 150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity (walking) or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise (jogging, cycling, swimming, elliptical, etc.). And then throw in a few resistance workouts to keep your muscles from deteriorating.
This changes as resistance training earns a new and improved status. Several recent studies, including one published by the “British Journal of Sports Medicine,” on Sept. 27, tout the health benefits of resistance training, and a new large-scale study drives the point home. Since 2006, nearly 100,000 subjects aged 55-74, male and female, have been followed through frequent surveys, and deaths from all causes (cancer, etc.) and also from heart disease (the number one cause of death) have been recorded.
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The subjects’ exercise habits are typical of the US adult population: 23.6% meet cardio guidelines and 16% regularly engage in resistance training. Not surprisingly, those who exercise regularly had the lowest mortality risk. Surprisingly, however, those who limited their training to resistance training only showed a significant 9% lower risk.
Is cardio or strength training better for reducing heart disease?
Now don’t get me wrong. Cardio exercise is still king, as those who reported doing regular cardio exercise had a 32% lower risk. However, and here’s the punchline, for those who did both cardio and resistance training, the risk of death was reduced by as much as 41% compared to sedentary subjects.
The benefits of cardio exercise are well known, but why resistance training helps reduce the risk of death from all causes, especially from heart disease, is less clear. Jessica Gorzelitz, Ph.D., lead author of the study, speculates that resistance training improves overall health and heart health through an increase in health-promoting muscle mass and a decrease in body fat, which takes a huge toll on health. Gorzelitz also speculates that with resistance training, the unique demands on blood flow may promote cardiovascular adaptations that are beneficial to the entire body.
The bottom line is that when it comes to the impact of exercise in reducing mortality risk, especially from heart disease, you should include both cardio and resistance training for maximum benefit.
Reach Bryant Stamford, a professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology at Hanover College, at . [email protected]