Posted on 1/09/2017 by
Checking your blood pressure and cholesterol to catch high levels can help protect your heart.
You know checking your blood pressure and cholesterol to catch high levels can help protect your heart. But here’s one risk factor you may not be familiar testing for: coronary artery calcium (CAC), or hardened plaque deposits in your arterial walls.
And that can be telling: The mere presence of any coronary artery calcium in your arteries can spike your risk of heart attack, a new study in JAMA Cardiology suggests.
The researchers used CT scans to test the coronary artery calcium scores in over 3,000 adults ages 32 to 46.
They discovered that people with any measurable amount of coronary artery calcium were 5 times as likely to have a heart attack within the next 12 years than those without any discernible deposits.
And the greater calcification detected, the more their heart attack risk spiked.
Previously, experts thought you had to have a certain amount of this hardened plaque before your risk of heart problems increased, said study author Jeffrey Carr, M.D., in a press release. But this shows any amount can signal problems down the line—in fact, someone with any measurable CAC in middle age has a 10 percent risk of heart attack over the next decade, beyond standard risk factors, he says.
While CAC does signal that heart disease is lurking, more research needs to be done before experts can recommend any kind of routine screening for coronary artery calcium.
Rather than an “all-in” screening for everyone in their 30s and 40s, a targeted approach where other heart disease risk factors are weighed may be a more practical solution in determining who should get screened, the researchers believe.