How calcium in coronary arteries can predict future heart health

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Heart disease is indeed the leading cause of death for men as well as women. People are at risk and therefore it is a crucial public health issue.

One way in order to determine a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart attack is in fact looking at their coronary artery calcium (CAC) levels.

Calcium does play a number of roles in the body, including keeping bones healthy. However, calcium that is present in coronary arteries can indeed lead to the accumulation of plaque.
Over time, this calcified substance can indeed cause atherosclerosis or a narrowing of the arteries. Atherosclerosis does restrict blood flow as well as oxygen supply to vital organs, thus potentially resulting in a heart attack or stroke.

High cholesterol levels can rather indicate that a person is at risk, but scientists can also, in fact, receive test CAC levels directly.

Making use of a CT scan to take numerous sectional pictures of the heart, doctors can see specks of CAC. Cholesterol guidelines from 2018 do recommend a CAC scan for people ages 40–75 whose risk status is rather “uncertain”.

male doctor with stethoscope around his neck against white backdrop 23 2148129603 - How calcium in coronary arteries can predict future heart health

Heart abnormalities:

The scientists made use of data from almost 2,500 people in order to track CAC and heart structure differences between young adulthood as well as middle age. Women made up 57% of the group, and 52% of participants were indeed white.

They took data from participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which did begin in the 1980s with the aim of identifying young adult risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

We looked at early adulthood to middle age because this happens to be a window in which one can see abnormalities that might not be causing symptoms, but could later increase the risk of heart problems.

Being older, being male, being black, smoking, and having higher cholesterol levels, and having higher systolic blood pressure does matter.
Middle-aged people who had higher CAC scores also did show a 9% increase in left ventricular volume and a 12% increase in left ventricular mass.
When the left ventricle does change in this way, the heart has to put more effort into pumping blood. This, in turn, does lead to a thickening of the heart, which does increase the risk of heart failure.
These abnormalities were more noticeable among black people. For these people, every one-unit change in their CAC score does correlate with quadruple the increase in their left ventricular mass.
It is unclear why people tend to exhibit such differences depending on their race. It could be on account of genetic factors or perhaps greater exposure to cardiovascular risk factors that usually appear earlier” in black people.

Black people are already more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Although just 43% of white women and 50% of white men have cardiovascular disease, it does affect 57% of black women and 60% of black men.

One needs to examine the link between coronary artery calcium and heart health, especially in relation to race. However, one has documented the relationship between CAC and heart failure risk factors in a younger age group which is significant.
Given the burden of morbidity and mortality associated with heart failure, these are important findings.

Prior studies have indicated that a better risk factor profile in young adulthood is indeed associated with much lower CAC and therefore, these results do further highlight the importance of primordial prevention and risk factor modification in early adulthood.

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About the Author: Nagendra Gadamsetty

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