Patients Shown Images Of Their Clogged Arteries Likely To Improve Cardiovascular Health

Doctors say people who see vivid images of plaque building up in their arteries are more likely to adopt 'heart-healthy' habits.

doctor with his patient looking at chest x-ray on the laptop
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Doctors say people who see vivid images of plaque building up in their arteries are more likely to adopt 'heart-healthy' habits.

A recent experiment into the relationship between heart health and visual learning might lead to a huge decrease in cardiovascular health-related deaths. As reported by Reuters, research suggests that the single greatest tool in a doctor’s arsenal against cardiovascular disease and patient apathy could be a single image of each patient’s clogged arteries. In fact, those who saw the damage being done to their heart were two times more effective at helping themselves than those who only heard that they were on the road to major cardiovascular problems.

Per the CDC, heart disease is the single biggest cause of death for Americans. A staggering 610,000 people will die from heart disease this year, which will account for 25 percent of all deaths. This continues to happen annually, despite the Cleveland Clinic discovering that 68 percent of adults are concerned about developing cardiovascular issues.

The reason for this disconnect was pointed out by Inc; approximately two-thirds of the world’s population learns best when presented with visual representations of data. Therefore, using images that showcase the direct impact of anything on a patient’s health makes good sense, especially when you consider how common it is to relate everything in life to your own personal experiences.

During the latest research study, more than 3,500 people who didn’t have heart disease symptoms yet, but did have one or more major risk factors, were split into two groups. The control group received nothing but lifestyle advice and, as needed, medication to treat their health risk. Meanwhile, the test group received these same things along with the added bonus of an image of their own arteries. They also benefited from personalized tutorials that pointed out what health issue they may deal with in the future.

3D illustration of cholesterol plaque in artery with Human heart anatomy
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The overall results of this study show that simply getting lifestyle advice and medication not only doesn’t work very well but can actually result in a slightly increased risk of future cardiovascular problems. Those who were literally faced with photographic evidence of the damage being caused by their own lifestyle choices were much more prone to improving their health and reducing their overall risk factors.

Interestingly, the Cleveland Clinic also indicated that many Americans have no idea what actually causes heart disease. Although there are many risk factors, the most prevalent causes of cardiovascular health issues are obesity, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. It may be worthwhile for doctors and insurance companies to consider making images of each patient’s arteries a common practice since this appears likely to give people the biggest push toward making their own heart-healthy decisions.