New Test Screens for Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes

Now your family physician can administer a test that can help predict your risk for heart attack or stroke. The test measures blood concentrations of plasma ceramides, a class of lipids that are often linked to cardiovascular disease.

“Studies show that assessing ceramide levels in patients not at immediate risk for coronary artery disease might help determine who could benefit from certain treatments—whether it’s statins or lifestyle changes through diet and exercise—to prevent a cardiac event later on,” said Dr. Adel Massoud, a family physician at CHI St. Joseph Health Primary Care.

The study found that patients with the highest levels of blood ceramides had a 3- to 4-times higher risk of having a cardiovascular event like a stroke or heart attack compared to those with lower ceramide scores. Traditional measurements, like LDL cholesterol levels or blockage in the heart’s arteries, were less significant factors.

Ceramides, which are different from cholesterol, can also gather and cause a clog in the arteries.

Throughout American Heart Month this February, we’re committed to helping patients understand their risk factors, their family histories, and to give them the tools they need to fight heart disease—which is often preventable through lifestyle changes.

According to the American Heart Association, it’s important for patients to participate in other routine screening to monitor their cardiovascular health. Those tests include:

  • Blood Pressure. If your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm HG, it’s important to get it checked at least once every two years, starting at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more often.
  • Fasting Lipoprotein Profile. You should have a fasting lipoprotein profile taken every four to six years, starting at age 20. This blood test measures total cholesterol, LDL and HDL.
  • Body Weight. Measurements of your waist circumference and body weight can be used to calculate your Body Mass Index during your routine visit. Being obese puts you at a higher risk for health problems.
  • Blood Glucose. High blood glucose levels can put you at greater risk of developing insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends regular screening for diabetes risk at age 45, with tests repeated every three years.
  • Smoking, Physical Activity, and Diet. Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on smoking cessation, diet, and physical activity habits.


“If you have test results that are less than ideal, it doesn’t mean you’re destined to develop heart disease,” said Dr. Massoud. “Rather, it means you’re in a position to change your health.”

Talk to your CHI St. Joseph Health primary care physician to learn more about your risk factors and the changes you can make. You can make an appointment online at or by calling (979) 314-5624.

American College of Cardiology – Levels of Ceramides in the Blood Help Predict Cardiovascular Events
American Heart Association – February is American Heart Month
American Heart Association – Heart-Health Screenings