Mammograms are part of many women’s yearly health check up, yet it turns out that these common tests can also predict your risk for heart disease. Like every other organ of the body, the breasts are supplied by arteries, blood vessels which continuously supply freshly oxygenated blood and nutrients. And like the others arteries in the body, these arteries can become filled with cholesterol plaque, or atherosclerosis.
When your mammogram is read by the radiologist, she may report calcifications within the breast tissue. These may be a warning sign of cancer. Yet calcifications can also show up in the breast arteries, indicating hardening of those arteries due to atherosclerotic plaque. This finding was first reported several years ago, and a new study from Mount Sinai Hospital takes it one step further, by correlating these blood vessel calcifications with the risk for heart disease. In fact, women who have breast arterial calcifications are highly likely to have cholesterol plaque in the heart, making mammograms a valuable tool in identifying women at high risk for heart disease.
To learn more, and to get my take, check out reporter Tara Haelle’s article on Everyday Health.