For decades, physicians believed that most heart attacks were due to a narrowing of coronary arteries, caused by hard arterial plaque. But new imaging methods show that even more risk may come from “soft plaque,” sometimes called “vulnerable plaque”: fatty deposits that build up on artery walls.
Dr. Craig Stevens tells us, “Soft plaque is very dangerous. It can cause a sudden rupture which can cause a blood clot which can trigger a heart attack.”
Cardiologists at Iowa Lutheran use intravascular ultrasound, or IVUS (eye-vus) for short, to see how thick or thin the soft plaque is. They also use standard cardiovascular tests to check for coronary artery disease.
Dr. Stevens says, “The things you can do to reduce the risk of vulnerable plaque are diet, exercise, and in some cases if risk factors are present, drug therapy can tremendously reduce the risk from vulnerable plaque.”
Research is underway to develop new drugs to help combat soft plaque.