Endothelial Function Testing
Steve Parcell, ND
Endothelial function testing is an exciting new noninvasive approach to assessing the health of blood vessels. This test was primarily used at research centres untill now. The endothelium is the layer of cells on the artery wall that come into contact with the blood.
There are several ways to assess endothelial function; most involve testing the endothelium’s ability to relax the vessel wall or to make the vessel wall more compliant (flexible).
The test is easy and non invasive. Here’s how it works: When blood flow increases through a vessel with a healthy endothelium, the vessel opens up wider to accommodate the increase. You can see this flowmediated vasodilatation, as it’s called, by using ultra sound. To do the test we place a blood pressure cuff around the wrist and inflate it to a pressure high enough to cut off blood flow to the hand. After five minutes, we release the cuff and the blood rushes back to the hand. This sudden increase in blood flow stimulates the endothelium to make NO (nitric oxide) and in response, the arm artery increases in diameter for a short period of time. We can see the vessel dilate by using ultrasound device. We know how well your endothelium is functioning by how much your arm artery dilates.
When a patient has an unhealthy endothelium, we try different lifestyle, nutritional, and medication interventions. The patient then returns in 812 weeks to retest. Endothelial function testing will become widespread for several reasons:
It immediately indicates the health of your blood vessels.
Through repeat tests, we can determine whether nutrition, supplements, or medication changes are improving vessel health, and your medical program can be tailored to your specific needs.
Most important, this test can predict you risk of having a heart attack or stroke. In fact, several studies indicate that endothelial function may be a batter predictor for heart attack and stroke then all others.
Who needs it: We recommend it for everyone over the age of 40 and everyone under the age of 40 with risk factors. Conditions which are closely linked to endothelial dysfunction include erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. This test is typically covered by insurance ans in performed by an outside contractor at NatureMed.