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How to tell if you have a serious heart problem with the movement of a finger

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A physical test helps figure out if you’re at risk of a deadly heart problem known as an aortic aneurysm.

A new study carried out by Yale University found a rapid and effective test to determine if a person has, without knowing it, an ascending aortic aneurysm, a potentially fatal dilation of the main arteries of the heart, and the best thing is that it only requires using hand.

According to the team of cardiologists who led the study, the test can be done by anyone and only requires the thumb and palm of the hand. The procedure is simple: by raising one hand and keeping the palm flat, the patient flexes the thumb as much as possible along the palm. Typically the thumb will reach into the center of the hand, but if it crosses beyond the far edge of the palm, the patient may be harboring an occult aneurysm.

Being able to move the thumb that way is an indication that a patient’s long bones are excessive and their joints are lax, signaling possible signs of connective tissue disease throughout the body, including the aorta.

Every year thousands of people around the world are at risk for an aortic aneurysm without knowing it , a condition that is fatal for about 10,000 people annually in the United States alone, making it the 13th most common cause of death for Americans.

If an aneurysm is found early enough, the patient can be kept safe through exercise restriction, radiographic monitoring, or surgery.

But, according to doctors, aortic aneurysms are difficult to detect in advance.

“The biggest problem in aneurysm disease is recognizing affected individuals within the general population before the aneurysm ruptures, said Dr. John A. Elefteriades, William WL Glenn Professor of Surgery at Yale and lead author of the new study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology.

For at least the past two decades, according to the doctor, he and his colleagues have included the thumb and palm test at conferences for medical students and used the test for patients who might be at risk of carrying an aneurysm.

However, despite its frequent use, the precision of the test had not been evaluated in a clinical setting.

According to the researchers, it is important to emphasize that not everyone who tests positive is a carrier of aneurysms. Also, they noted, aneurysms often take decades to progress to the point of rupture, and a positive test is not cause for panic.

For the study, the researchers tested 305 patients undergoing heart surgery for a variety of disorders, including aortic aneurysms. “Our study showed that the majority of aneurysm patients do not manifest a positive thumb-palm sign, but patients who do have a positive test have a high likelihood of harboring an aneurysm,” said Dr. Elefteriades.

Based on their findings, Dr. Elefteriades and his colleagues said that the thumb and palm test should be included in standard physical examinations of patients, particularly those with a family history of aortic aneurysm.

“Spreading knowledge of this test may well identify silent aneurysm carriers and save lives,” concluded the study author.

Image Credit: iStock

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