Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: Should I be tested at Life Line Screening?

Q. Do you recommend preventive screening for vascular disease through companies such as Life Line Screening? I just got a notice for one that also includes osteoporosis testing.

A. Life Line Screening is one of many commercial companies that offer noninvasive tests to screen for several conditions in people without symptoms. The screenings are provided in mobile vans set up in local communities and are sold as packages ranging from two tests to as many as seven. Technicians perform the tests, and off-site physicians interpret the results. Recipients receive formal reports within a few weeks.

Three of the tests are used to screen for vascular disease. One involves the use of ultrasound to detect narrowing, usually caused by cholesterol plaque, in the carotid arteries on either side of the neck. Plaque buildup in a carotid artery increases the risk of stroke. A second test is performed using blood pressure cuffs on the arms and ankles to identify plaque in the arteries of the legs (peripheral artery disease), which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. The third vascular test uses ultrasound to look for abdominal aortic aneurysm — ballooning (and therefore potential rupture) of the abdominal aorta, the large artery that supplies blood to the abdomen and lower half of the body. The package may also include an ultrasound test for osteoporosis in the heel.

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