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Coronary Calcium Scans May Help Earlier Detect Heart Attack Risks

It appears physicians may have new technology to help better identify their patient’s risk of heart attack. While controversial and still relatively new, coronary calcium scans have been at the center of two new studies in the Journal of American Medical Association.

One of the studies found that coronary artery calcium was approximately six times better at predicting cardiovascular risk than a family history of coronary heart disease.

While we’re all on board with early detection let’s look into this further.

I recently found a story related to this new research in on

More after the jump…

Here’s an excerpt from the story.

About 7,000 participants, 1,330 of whom had intermediate risk, were included in the study. Researchers compared six different markers of risk, and found that the calcium was superior to the rest.

The cost for the calcium test varies, but is usually about $200, Yeboah said.

“The cost issue should always be weighed against how much is society prepared to spend for a heart attack,” he said.

The cost of treating a person with a heart attack could be more than a thousand times higher than the cost of the calcium test, he said. Additionally, many people die from their first heart attack.

“The current study in JAMA on coronary CT imaging should convince physicians and the public alike that if you are middle-aged, have some risk factors for heart disease, and want to greatly improve your knowledge of what your risk truly is, you should get a calcium score,” said Dr. Arthur Agatston, a Miami cardiologist and author of the best-selling South Beach diet books, in an e-mail.

<further down in article>

Although many insurance companies do not cover the calcium test, some people pay out of pocket for it anyway, Yeboah said. It is unclear whether the test has helped those people specifically.

Former President Bill Clinton told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta in “The Last Heart Attack” that he’d had one of these scans just months after leaving office, but doctors weren’t sure what to do with the results since the technology was so new.

Clinton said he had “some calcium buildup around my heart that put me basically in the top third of risk,” but did so well on the stress test that doctors said there wasn’t any evidence of blockage.

In 2004, Clinton experienced tightness in his chest, which turned out to be a serious symptom. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to his heart. And in 2010, he needed another procedure: two stents to open a vein from his bypass surgery. Go to full article.

There’s no doubt that early detection is key, especially for something as serious as a heart attack which could be fatal. While I’ll keep my eye on the research and let you know when I learn more, this is certainly news worth noting.

If you have cardiovascular health issues and feel you may be at risk for a heart attack, this new scan may be something to discuss with your doctor or cardiologist.

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Category: News.