Heart scan can predict premature death risk

New York, July 7: A scan of calcium deposits inside the arteries can identify those at risk of dying over the next 15 years, a new study has found. A coronary artery calcification (CAC) scan is an X-ray test that looks for specks of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries.

These specks of calcium are called calcifications and are an early sign of coronary artery disease. Researchers from Emory University School of Medicine, led by Leslee Shaw, professor of cardiology, collected and assessed CAC scores and risk factor data taken from 9,715 study participants between the years 1996 and 1999.


The patients, who were scanned as part a community-outreach screening programme at an outpatient clinic in Nashville, showed no symptoms of coronary artery disease at the time of the scans.

Approximately 86 per cent of the participants were white, eight per cent were African American, four per cent were Hispanic, and two per cent were Asian. Researchers found that the score accurately predicted all-cause mortality up to 15 years in the asymptomatic patients.

The researchers 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," said 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," said Shaw.


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