Published on December 23, 2013 at 5:32 AM
"We found that 15 percent of people believed to be at very low risk actually had high coronary artery calcium scores above 100 and were at relatively high risk of a cardiac event over the next seven years," says Roger Blumenthal, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center, who is a co-author of the study.
"On the other hand, 35 percent of study participants thought to be at very high risk and needing aggressive therapy with aspirin and statin medication actually had no coronary artery calcium and an extremely low event rate of the next seven years. For them, we can emphasize lifestyle modifications," says Blumenthal.
Nasir says the results may encourage a major paradigm shift in how physicians estimate heart disease risk for their patients. "Our study shows that coronary artery calcium testing holds promise as a frontline assessment for people before they develop heart disease symptoms. In the meantime, we believe that doctors should consider offering a coronary artery calcium scan to their patients to markedly improve risk prediction if they are unsure whether they should be on lifelong statin and aspirin therapy."
The study, "Impact of Coronary Artery Calcium on Coronary Heart Disease Events in Individuals at the Extremes of Traditional Risk Factor Burden: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis," was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant numbers N01-HC-95159 to N01-HC-95166, N01 HC 95169, U01HL105270-03 to HMK and T32-HL-7227-36 to MGS.
Source: Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center