Study Reveals Coronary Calcium Scores as Crucial Predictors of Heart Disease Risk
New York : In a groundbreaking study, researchers at Intermountain Health in the United States have identified a significant correlation between high levels of coronary calcium and the risk of heart disease, even in the absence of traditional risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking.
While the commonly recognized risk factors for heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking, previous research indicated that a notable percentage of heart attack patients (14% to 27%) did not exhibit any of these standard risk factors.
The new study underscores the importance of including scans that detect plaque buildup, specifically coronary calcium, as part of standard care for identifying and treating individuals at risk for heart disease.”
Measuring coronary calcium could have a major impact on how we identify who is at risk for heart disease,” emphasized lead author Jeffrey L. Anderson, a research physician at Intermountain Health. He stressed the need to go beyond the four major modifiable risk factors, as there may be additional factors contributing to increased heart attack risk in certain patients that are not yet recognized or understood.
Presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023 in Philadelphia, the study focused on 429 heart attack patients who underwent coronary artery calcium scans. Among them, 369 had standard modifiable risk factors (SMuRF), including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and smoking, while 60 did not (SMuRF-less).
The researchers assessed the patients’ coronary calcium scores and monitored major adverse cardiovascular events, such as subsequent heart attacks, strokes, or deaths, both at 60 days and over the long term. SMuRF-less patients consistently exhibited high rates of coronary calcium scores, with 77% meeting criteria for preventive therapy, including statins and/or aspirin.
The study highlights the potential benefits of incorporating coronary artery calcium scans into standard care, especially for individuals who may not exhibit traditional risk factors. Dr. Anderson emphasized, “We’re missing about a quarter of people who are at risk for heart attack events because we’re still relying on just the standard risk factors.” The findings suggest a potential shift in current practices to identify seemingly low-risk patients who may benefit from preventive therapy.