For those of you with a family history of heart disease a major new health study has shown the benefit of a calcium test performed with the assistance of a CT scanner that can provide doctors with information on the likelihood that certain patients have an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The procedure, called coronary artery calcium scoring — or CAC — checks for calcium buildup in the arteries. It rates heart attack risk and gauges the benefit of certain heart treatments, such as statins.
Statins are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels and help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They are some of the most prescribed drugs on the market, and include such well known brands as Lipitor (Atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), and Crestor (rosuvastatin).
The study, published in The Lancet, suggests that screening for calcium buildup in coronary arteries, called atherosclerosis, may be a better method than a C-reactive protein test, which measures the amount of C-reactive protein in the blood, for not only predicting heart attack risk but whether a patient might benefit from statin therapy.
Researchers looked at 950 patients with no symptoms of heart disease and found that patients with the presence of calcium -– even those with low cholesterol levels — had twice the risk for heart attack or stroke and four times the risk for heart disease than those with a calcium score of zero.
This suggests that too many people are taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs who show no evidence of coronary artery calcium, thus paying a great deal of out-of-pocket prescription drugs costs to afford the lifetime treatments of statin medication. While statins can help those with a risk of heart attack or stroke live a longer, better life, they also have side effects, so the study suggests that this calcium test could be part of a strategy to lower the amount of people taking statins unnecessarily.
A more in depth news article on this study can be read at the Telegraph newspaper website