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Seeing clogged arteries may spur healthy lifestyle changes

To encourage heart-healthy habits, a picture may be worth a thousand words, suggests a study published online Dec. 3, 2018, by The Lancet.

The study included more than 3,100 people ages 40 to 60 with at least one risk factor for heart disease. All participants received standard care to prevent heart disease, including medications (if needed) and advice about lifestyle factors. But half were given a drawing depicting the amount of plaque in their neck arteries, along with a gauge ranging from green to red to illustrate their biological age (based on their blood vessel health) compared with their actual age. Nurses called them with follow-up information, and their doctors also got the images.

After one year, heart disease risk scores had dropped among those who saw the pictures, while scores increased among the other participants. People in the picture group also lowered their total and LDL cholesterol more than those in the other group, and people with the worst initial levels had the greatest improvements. The researchers plan to include cost-effectiveness information in the three-year results of this ongoing study.

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