Coronary Calcium Level Is A Better Indicator Of Heart Attack Than Soft Plaque

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Mar 21, 2017 08:43 AM EDT

People with a lower score of coronary calcium have a lesser risk of heart attack. (Photo : Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for TAG Heuer)

Coronary calcium levels in patient's blood are a better indicator of heart attack than a soft plaque accumulation in the arteries. It is irreversible, but it can be cured with statins for atherosclerosis.

The build-up of coronary calcium is more linked with heart attacks than a soft plaque. This was according to the researchers of the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City. The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Washington Saturday, March 18.

Researchers followed participants for an average of seven years. They used a CT coronary angiography in examining the constituent of coronary artery plaque. The process separated soft, calcified and fibrous plaque. It was then found out that participants with a larger mass of calcified plaque have a higher risk of heart attacks.

"It's a disease marker, not a risk marker. And we think it's possibly a very important predictor," Dr. Brent Muhlestein, one of the study's authors and co-director of cardiology research at the Intermountain said.

People having a coronary calcium score of zero are almost safe for heart attack, whatever their cholesterol level is, Dr. Muhlestein told Medical Express. The finding is very important that patients  may not be required to take statin medicines even though they have high levels of blood cholesterol, he added.

Furthermore, Dr. Muhlestein added that if there's no atherosclerosis, patients will not suffer from heart attack. Therefore, the coronary calcium score is the basis of selecting potential patients.

Doctors most-prescribe statins to patients with high cholesterol. These drugs control low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is also known as bad cholesterol and can increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) the so-called good cholesterol.

Abnormal level of blood cholesterol can also be controlled through diet and exercise, and losing weight gives more effective results. Statins are believed to lower the risk of both heart attack and stroke. However, these drugs can cause headache, gastrointestinal problems, muscle and joint pains.

Moreover, statins can cause memory loss, mental confusion, high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes, and can even lead to muscle or liver damage. Almost 610,000 people die from heart attacks according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke, on the other hand, causes about 140,000 deaths as per the Internet Stroke Center. These data were based on the annual case of patients in the United States.

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