Heart disease is the top killer of people in the U.S. year after year (yes, even in a year like the one we just had). It probably seems like you'd notice if your heart was in trouble, but you'd be surprised how cardiovascular events can sneak up on you. Even if you're doing all the right things—like eating healthy and getting your steps in—there could be hidden signs your heart is at risk that you may not know about. The good news is, according to a new study, there's one simple test you can do right now that can tell if your heart is in danger. Read on to see the easy way you can tell you're at risk.
There's a subtle sign with your hand that can tell if your heart is in danger of a deadly aneurysm.
A study published on May 18 in the American Journal of Cardiology has found that a simple test using the thumb and palm of your hand can often accurately predict whether or not you're at risk of a major heart issue known as a hidden aortic aneurysm.
According to a statement from Yale University announcing the study, the easy "thumb-palm" test involves holding up one hand and keeping the palm flat while the you flex your thumb as far across your palm as possible. If your thumb crosses over the far edge of your palm and sticks out, you're potentially at a higher risk of a hidden aneurysm.
If your thumb does stick out, you have a "high likelihood of harboring an aneurysm."
The study is the first to test the accuracy of the "thumb-palm" test, which doctors have used for decades but has never been assessed in a clinical setting. Researchers administered the quick check to 305 patients set to undergo heart surgery for various disorders, including aortic aneurysms, to gauge its effectiveness. Even though 59 patients had been diagnosed with ascending aneurysms, the thumb-palm test detected that 10 patients had the disorder, while 295 did not.
Though the test did miss 49 subjects' aortic aneurysms, "patients who do have a positive test have a high likelihood of harboring an aneurysm," senior author John A. Elefteriades, MD, William W.L. Glenn professor of surgery at Yale and emeritus director of the aortic institute at Yale New Haven Hospital, said in a statement.
A positive test result doesn't necessarily mean you're in immediate danger.
The researchers emphasized that not everyone who tests positive with the thumb test is necessarily at risk of an aneurysm imminently. They point out that the condition can take decades to develop to the point of a potentially fatal rupture.
According to Yale's statement accompanying the study, the test simply shows that "being able to move the thumb in that way is an indication that a patient's long bones are excessive and their joints are lax—possible signs of connective tissue disease throughout the body, including the aorta."
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The test could be important during your next physical.
Aortic aneurysms remain a serious concern, ranking as the 13th most common cause of death in the United States with more than 10,000 people of all ages killed each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But researchers say that detecting the condition early could help keep patients safe with regular monitoring, reduced exercise, or corrective surgery.
"The biggest problem in aneurysm disease is recognizing affected individuals within the general population before the aneurysm ruptures," Elefteriades said. "Spreading knowledge of this test may well identify silent aneurysm carriers and save lives."