AUG 13, 2017 7:22 PM PDT

Why You Should Care About Coronary Artery Calcium

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Scientists are illustrating the power of a low coronary artery calcium (CAC) score in the context of heart disease in a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. In light of the new findings, the authors are making an argument for adding a CAC score to the factors considered before doctors prescribe medicine like statins.

Even in the midst of other known risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure, and bad cholesterol levels, researchers found that minimal calcium buildup in the coronary arteries, which feed blood and oxygen to the heart, lowers an individual’s risk of a “cardiovascular event” to under three percent for at least ten years. More calcium buildup, more risk for heart attack and stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends that people should start to receive statin treatments when they reach a 7.5 percent risk of cardiovascular events based on a CAC score, achieved via a CT scan, which is easy, affordable, and depicts a person’s 10-year risk.

"Our findings suggest that individuals with no calcium buildup in their blood vessels may not have to take statins despite the presence of other risk factors that cause coronary disease,” explained Dr. Parag Joshi.

How does calcium end up in blood vessels in the first place? Plaque buildup as a result of atherosclerosis calcifies over time. Coronary artery calcium is thus a sign of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and coronary microvascular disease.

Calcification in the arteries can be either intimal or medial, which are each associated with different risk factors. In the past, scientists thought coronary artery calcification was benign, a normal result of aging. But they soon realized that it actually causes arterial stiffness, affecting 90 percent of men and 67 percent of women older than 70 years of age.

Risk factors for CAC include high BMI, high blood pressure, glucose disorders, family history of CAC, and chronic kidney disease. CAC is not affected by dietary calcium intake.

The new study examined CT scans from over six thousand people with no history of heart attack or stroke, data obtained from MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis). Half of the participants had no calcium deposits, resulting in their receiving a CAC score of zero. A zero score doesn’t mean zero risk; the risk is just low and not deemed high enough to require statin treatments.

"A CAC score can really add to the clinician-patient discussion over whether or not to start a statin for primary prevention of heart attacks and strokes," Dr. Joshi said. Other factors like family history should be considered, researchers say, because preemptive statin treatment could prevent future heart problems.

 

Sources: UT Southwestern Medical Center, Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, National Heart, Lungs, and Blood Institute

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
OCT 05, 2020
Cancer
Does Having an Appendectomy Increase Your Risk for Cancer?
OCT 05, 2020
Does Having an Appendectomy Increase Your Risk for Cancer?
Cancer research is more than just the study of diagnostics and novel therapies. Researchers also investigate the causes ...
OCT 08, 2020
Cardiology
Omega-3 Enriched Chicken as a Fish Alternative for Omega-3 Fatty Acids
OCT 08, 2020
Omega-3 Enriched Chicken as a Fish Alternative for Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We have all seen those articles telling us to get more omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. Many studies point to these spec ...
OCT 13, 2020
Neuroscience
Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer's Damage Brain in Same Way
OCT 13, 2020
Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer's Damage Brain in Same Way
Sleep apnea is characterized by breathing that repeatedly stops and starts, loud snoring, restless sleep, and sleepiness ...
OCT 21, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
New ALS Treatment Extends Life for Several Months
OCT 21, 2020
New ALS Treatment Extends Life for Several Months
Currently, there are only two approved medications to treat Lou Gehrig's disease (also known as ALS), a condition po ...
OCT 27, 2020
Cardiology
Boron Could Prevent Myocardial Fibrosis and Assist in Recovery
OCT 27, 2020
Boron Could Prevent Myocardial Fibrosis and Assist in Recovery
When you pass by the nutrition section at the local grocery store, there is a chance you’ll come across row upon r ...
OCT 25, 2020
Health & Medicine
Over 4 in 10 People With MS Have Used Cannabis in the Last Year
OCT 25, 2020
Over 4 in 10 People With MS Have Used Cannabis in the Last Year
University of Michigan researchers have found that Americans with Multiple sclerosis (MS) are twice as likely as the gen ...
Loading Comments...