According to dr. Menon, the latest diagnostic tools are an armamentarium of tests which range from protein based assays to lipid based assays and dna diagnostics. “it is very important to have knowledge enabled health information so that one can actively pursue a path to decrease one’s susceptibility to disease,” he says. “for example, if one has the gene for high blood pressure, but one takes all the precautions required, such as keep a normal weight, lead a stress-free life, and partake in regular exercise, then it is highly unlikely that the person will manifest the symptoms of high blood pressure. On the other hand, if a person with no family history of high blood pressure or diabetes does not take care of his health, puts on weight, does not exercise, consumes tobacco, he/she Can become easily susceptible to diseases which their forefathers did not have,” says dr. Menon. “the latest diagnostic tools and tests are a guide. Ultimately, a person has to follow a healthy lifestyle if he or she aspires to be healthy.”
Heart Disease Screening
For acquired heart diseases due to cardiovascular disorders like atherosclerosis, the most important test dr. Menon suggests is ‘serum cholesterol’. “cholesterol is a vital chemical in the body that forms a part of all the cell membranes,” he explains and it is also an important part of food. Dr. Menon further says that there are sub-fractions of cholesterol known as hdl, ldl and vldl. “the ldl form of cholesterol is considered the dangerous fraction and higher levels have been shown to be directly linked to heart disease,” he notes. Interestingly almost a third of patients who report with myocardial infarction have normal lipid profiles. “at our lab we sub-fractionate ldl to seven sub-fractions and it is the later sub-fractions such as 5, 6 and 7 which are the small sticky ldl’s that are extremely dangerous as they stick to the blood vessels causing atherosclerosis and thus coronary artery disease. We are the only lab in the uae which offers this test in-house,” he explains. The earlier ldl sub-fractions 1 to 4 actually protect from heart disease. The direct ldl test, which is done as part of a lipid profile, may not really be indicative of the specific danger of an individual suffering from heart disease. Therefore, dr. Menon recommends first and foremost, a person should do the cholesterol test to determine the total cholesterol. Then one should opt for lipid profile and if the lipid profile is normal and the patient does not have a history of cardiac disease, then he or she can be considered to be safe. “however, in individuals with a history of cardiac disease or diabetes, even if the lipid profile is normal, I would personally advise a lipid sub-fractionation test as that will give him or her the exact ldl sub types that causes coronary vascular
Disease. With added information from the ldl sub fractionation test your doctor can help you with strategies to reverse heart disease early”.
For a person who has had heart related issues in the past, first and foremost, dr. Menon advises that the individual undergo regular health checkups with a physician, have his blood pressure checked on a fairly regular basis and have his or her lipid profile done fairly regularly every six months. If the person has diabetes, he should get a hba1c test done every three months. Crp is another interesting test which has been shown to have a direct correlation with heart disease.
Top suggested blood tests for males over 50
Dr. Menon explains that the top tests can be divided based on gender. “in males, the biggest dangers are diabetes and heart disease and men should constantly be on the lookout for these,” he says. Regular health checkups especially for hba1c, lipid profiles, total cholesterol, kidney function tests and liver function tests should be carried out. “also, I would recommend that elderly
Males over age 50 undergo periodic testing for prostate specific antigen in order to ensure that in case it is increased, one can take appropriate measures,” he tells.
Top suggested blood tests for females over 50
Younger women are relatively protected from heart disease as compared to males, tells dr. Menon. “however, once menopause sets in, women have, if not greater, at least an equal risk of heart disease, when compared to the male gender,” he says, therefore they should also undergo regular medical checkups, get their bmi done regularly, have their blood pressure, lipid profiles and hba1c checked regularly. Women are also at risk of thyroid disease. Testing for thyroid function should be carried out especially if there is a history of rapid weight gain. In terms of cancer screening, dr. Menon advises it is very important to do a self-breast exam on a regular basis as well as a mammogram every alternate year. “they should also undergo a regular cervical pap Smear and testing for human papilloma virus once in three years,” he says and all these will hopefully give them an enhanced awareness of their lifestyle and help them lead a healthy and happy life.
Dr. Palat Krishnan Menon
Laboratory Services Director (www.gmu.ac.ae)
MD. Phd. MBA CPHQ