MAY 05, 2018 02:54 PM PDT

When Low-Risk People Still Get Atherosclerosis

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

For people with blood pressure, cholesterol, and age associated with a low to intermediate level of risk for heart disease, scientists wouldn’t expect the rate of atherosclerosis to be so high. In a new study, researchers show how a particular diagnostic method reveals atherosclerosis in seemingly low-risk individuals.

Cross-section of atherosclerotic tissue. Source: Patho

Whole-body magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), not to be confused with its diagnostic cousin, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), provides a non-invasive, radiation free tool for evaluating atherosclerosis in blood vessels all over the human body. As opposed to standard tests, MRA takes a wider look at the vascular system to detect systemic disease.

"The results offer a validated quantitative score of atherosclerotic burden, and the technique does not use ionizing radiation, which is an advantage over CT angiography,” explained co-author Graeme Houston, MD.

What is atherosclerosis? It’s a disease characterized by the buildup of plaque in narrowing arteries, and it’s often the precursor to heart disease. Early intervention is important to entertain the possibility of reversing or at least slowing the progression of the disease. To do so, improvements need to be made in the diagnostic arena.

In the new study, researchers applied whole-body MRA in 1,513 participants considered to be in a low to intermediate risk group for heart disease. This means that their risk of developing heart disease within the next ten years is less than 20 percent. With an average participant age of 53.5, researchers used the results from the MRA to evaluate the amount of blood vessels affected by plaque buildup in participants with atherosclerosis, looking at 31 arterial segments per person.

They found that the prevalence of atherosclerosis was surprisingly high. The overarching atherosclerotic plaque levels in the participants were associated with three known risk factors for heart disease: age, blood pressure, and cholesterol. 50 percent of the patients had a least one narrowed vessel, and 25 percent had multiple narrowed vessels.

"This is surprising, given that the study group was made up of asymptomatic individuals without diabetes who had low to intermediate risk of future cardiovascular events by standard risk factor assessment," Houston said.

"The results confirm the feasibility for MRA as an imaging method for detecting early atherosclerotic disease in individuals at low to intermediate risk of cardiovascular events," Prof. Houston concluded. "This approach could stratify individuals for the presence of disease burden, which could inform further preventative therapy in the future."

The present study was published in the journal Radiology.

Sources: Head & Face Medicine, Radiological Society of North America

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 04, 2018
Neuroscience
JUN 04, 2018
Repairing the Brain After a Stroke
A stroke is a severe medical event that impacts brain function because the supply of oxygen is cut off during a stroke. The most common kind of stroke is a...
JUN 05, 2018
Cardiology
JUN 05, 2018
Your Heart and Your Sleeping Habits
Getting enough sleep is good for you. Old news, right? A new study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine expands on this generic health advice, findi...
JUL 15, 2018
Cardiology
JUL 15, 2018
Brain Disease and High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure has been shown to correlate with increased risk for brain lesion formation associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Dementia....
JUL 18, 2018
Cardiology
JUL 18, 2018
Risk of Heart Attack Rising for Pregnant Women
Recent study shows that rates of heart attack have increased in pregnant women 25% from 2002 to 2014....
AUG 05, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 05, 2018
The Major Health Risks Posed by Cipro
In recent years, studies have shown that a once-popular class of antibiotics can have life-threatening side effects....
OCT 04, 2018
Cardiology
OCT 04, 2018
Medical Tourism Is More Popular Than Ever, But Is It Safe
Medical tourism is a booming industry with the more popular surgery destinations reporting revenues into the billions. This trend of people going overseas...
Loading Comments...