Simple Calcium Heart Scan May Predict Early Death Risk

Levels of coronary artery calcification can predict 15-year death risk, in patients with no coronary artery disease symptoms, reports a new study.

A coronary artery calcification (CAC), according to Medscape, is an x-ray test that looks for specks of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries. These particles of calcium are called calcifications and are an early sign of coronary artery disease.

Led by Leslee Shaw, PhD, professor of cardiology, a team of researchers from Emory University School of Medicine collected and analyzed CAC scores and risk factor data taken from 9,715 study participants between the years 1996 and 1999. All patients showed no symptoms of coronary artery disease at the time of the scans.

Researchers discovered that the CAC score was an accurate prediction of all-cause mortality up to 15 years in the asymptomatic patients. The authors suggest that CAC scanning could help identify patients at risk for early death.

“These findings give us a better understanding of the importance of coronary calcium scans to predict mortality,” says Shaw. “Patients with high calcium scores might be advised by their physicians to adopt healthier lifestyles, which could lead to better outcomes and potentially help lengthen their lives.”

CAC scores, Shaw says have been utilized to estimate cardiovascular prognosis and all-cause mortality in the short term, but this study is the first long-term analysis.

Earlier this year, a study from the Medical College of Wisconsin found that sitting for many hours per day is associated with increased coronary artery calcification.

The study found no association between coronary artery calcification and the amount of exercise a person gets, suggesting that too much sitting might have a greater impact than exercise on this particular measure of heart health. The results suggest that exercise may not entirely counteract the negative effects of a mostly sedentary lifestyle on coronary artery calcium.

Leslee J. Shaw, PhD; Ashley E. Giambrone, PhD; Michael J. Blaha, MD; Joseph T. Knapper, MD; Daniel S. Berman, MD; Naveen Bellam, MD; Arshed Quyyumi, MD; Matthew J. Budoff, MD; Tracy Q. Callister, MD; and James K. Min, MD
Long-Term Prognosis After Coronary Artery Calcification Testing in Asymptomatic Patients: A Cohort Study
Ann Intern Med. 2015;163(1):14-21. doi:10.7326/M14-0612

Jacquelyn Kulinski; Julia Kozlitina; Jarett Berry; James de Lemos; Amit Khera
Sedentary Behavior Is Associated With Coronary Artery Calcification In The Dallas Heart Study
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65(10_S):. doi:10.1016/S0735-1097(15)61446-2