Coronary Calcium May Be Heart Attack Risk Factor

Article excerpt

Patient at risk for heart attack may someday be identified through a quick, non-invasive scan for improperly metabolized calcium deposits in their corwnary arteries.

Recent research on nearly 600 patients using a relatively new type of X-ray scan, ultrafast computerized tomography (CT), provided a sensitive measure of calcium in the arterial walls. Calcium, invariably linked with atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries," increased alongside other risk factors such as age, gender, history of smoking and hypertension.

Writing in the American Journal of Cardiology, the researchers reported on a study of 458 men abd 139 women, one of the largest studies associating coronary atherosclerosis detected by CT calcium screening with a wide spectrum of cariovascular risk factors.

"We found a strong association between the presence of calcium and other risk factors such as age and a history of smoking," said Nathan Wong, director of the preventive cardiology program at the University of California College of Medicine. "However, the power of the CT sacn to predict heart attacks has yet to be established and will depend on further study."

If ultrafast CT scanning turns out to be a predictor of heart attacks, the technique, in conjunction with known risk factors, could provide a sensitive, noninvasive method of testing patients. Currently, other noninvasive methods such as exercise treadmill testing have significant false-positive and false-negative rates. …