A simple cholesterol test that can predict the risk of a heart attack in the coming 10 years is available free through the San Juan Basin Health Department.
"Participants get the results of the test immediately," said JoJo Jensen, a community health technician at the health department, who administers the test and explains the results. "They don't have to wait for a piece of paper in the mail."
Jensen advises test takers to consult a physician if they have questions beyond the hard numbers that turn up in the readout.
"Education is an important piece of the program," Jensen said. "If there is a high level of cholesterol or if there are questions beyond the results of the test, we advise them to see a doctor."
The predictive test is conducted through the Colorado Heart Healthy Solutions Program. Last year, the first for the program, Jensen gave 600 tests. She gives tests at the health department on Tuesdays and at places of business or other sites on request.
"The goal is to prevent heart attacks and strokes," said Dr. Mori Krantz, a cardiologist who oversees the program at the nonprofit Colorado Prevention Center, based in Denver. "We've screened 17,000 people since the program started a year ago.
"Colorado Heart Healthy Solutions is statewide," Krantz said. "It's based in more than 30 counties, and its aim is to safeguard our friends, families and neighbors from the leading cause of death in Colorado."
The tests are simple and fast, Jensen said.
She pokes a finger to draw a drop of blood and places the sample in Cholestech, an apparatus about the size of a shoe box that contains an instrument to analyze blood for high, low and total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.
While Cholestech does its thing, Jensen takes the client's blood pressure and height and weight to calculate body-mass index, (a measure of weight in relation to height to determine if one's weight is healthy). She also asks about marital status, health history, diet, exercise regimen, age, gender and whether the person smokes or has diabetes.
The result of the blood test and the other data is plugged into a mathematical formula devised by the Framingham Heart Study. The result is given as a percentage - the chances of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. The procedure takes 15 minutes.
The Framingham project started in 1948 among 5,209 residents, ages 30 to 62, in the Massachusetts town of the same name. The project involved extensive physical examinations and questions about lifestyle with the goal of finding commonalities to predict cardiovascular disease.
New participants brought into the study in 1971 and 2002 include children and grandchildren of the original participants.
The nonprofit Colorado Prevention Center, which has been around for 20 years, funds the tests through the Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease and Pulmonary Disease Grants program.
The cholesterol test is as accurate as the commonly accepted gold standard - a regular blood draw, Krantz said.
The program, authorized in 2005, provided $21 million for 55 programs in the year that began July 1. Forty-two of the grants were continued funding, 13 of them were first-time grants.