Medical Tests & Procedures Archive


From the wrist to the heart: A safer route for angioplasty?

At least half of all artery-opening angioplasties done in the United States now begin at the wrist instead of the top of the thigh. The wrist (or transradial) approach is easier on patients, safer, and less expensive. After the procedure, people can sit up right away instead of lying flat for several hours, and they are much less likely to experience bleeding, including serious bleeding in the abdomen. The lower complication rates mean people can leave the hospital sooner, which translates to decreased costs.

You don't say? Brain space

It’s thought that the average person uses just 10% of the brain. While some parts of the brain may be more active at any given time or during a particular activity, there is no part that is known to be unused or completely unnecessary.

Do BMI numbers add up?

For decades, researchers have used body mass index (BMI) to estimate a person’s body fat mass and predict possible health risks. While BMI is helpful, it can’t accurately measure the type of fat people accumulate, especially among older adults. Monitoring one’s waist size with a simple measuring tape may be a better option.

A blood test may predict increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease

A study published online June 2, 2021, by the journal Brain found that a blood test may help to predict an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Back to the doctor

People who’ve skipped medical check-ups for a while should visit their primary care doctor, dental hygienist, and eye doctor. A primary care doctor will consider a person’s blood pressure, medications, weight, alcohol intake, gait, balance, memory, hearing, mood, and levels of physical activity and socialization. To prepare for the visit, one should write down questions for the doctor and bring a list of all medications. At the appointment, one should take notes and ask any questions needed to understand the doctor’s instructions.

When imaging tests reveal unexpected findings

Heart imaging tests sometimes reveal potentially worrisome abnormalities in or near the heart that are unrelated to the original reason for the test. These "incidentalomas" are usually harmless, but not always. Before undergoing heart imaging tests, people should understand how the results may change their treatment and if they are willing to receive that therapy. If a test reveals an incidentaloma, a second opinion from a highly experienced cardiologist or radiologist may help patients feel more confident that a concerning finding is treated appropriately.

Drinking sugary beverages associated with colon cancer risk

Drinking two or more sugary drinks a day appeared to more than double the risk of colorectal cancer in women.

Reducing heart risks in the wake of breast cancer treatment

Hormone therapy is a highly successful breast cancer treatment for women, but it can elevate cardiovascular risk. Women can reduce those risks by being vigilant about their heart health and working closely with their doctors. Women who have taken or are taking these medications as part of breast cancer treatment should focus on adopting a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, and keeping close tabs on their blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels.

Look inside your heart

The traditional measures to gauge heart disease risk don’t always tell the whole story. Sometimes more medical information is needed. An increasingly used test to predict a person’s risk for heart attack or stroke is a coronary artery calcium scan. It measures the amount of calcified plaque in the heart’s arteries, high levels of which suggest higher overall plaque buildup. The number can determine if people should begin statin therapy and make additional lifestyle changes.

Vitamin D and the big C

New research has found an association between high and low levels of vitamin D and cancer risk. However, many older adults don’t get the recommended daily amount of 600 to 800 international units, as the main sources of vitamin D are sun exposure (which many people try to avoid) and certain foods, like fatty fish, fortified milk and cereal. Getting vitamin D levels checked to find a possible deficiency can reveal if someone needs more vitamin D, which may require taking a daily supplement.

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