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Heart Disease Health Center

Is Calcium Test the Best Way to Check Heart Risk?

Study Shows CAC Testing May Help Identify Patients Who Could Benefit From Statin Drugs
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Checking for Heart Risk With CAC Testing continued...

Blaha believes CAC imaging will prove to be a better test for assessing cardiovascular risk than CRP in generally healthy patients for whom treatment decisions are unclear.

He adds that a trial like JUPITER is needed to determine if patients treated with statins based on CAC findings have fewer heart attacks and strokes.

Cardiologist Robert Bonow, MD, who is a past president of the American Heart Association (AHA), says until such a trial is done it will not be clear if coronary calcium screening influences treatment and changes outcomes.

The AHA does not recommend coronary artery calcium screening for patients with a low or high risk of heart disease, but it concludes that the test may be of use in average-risk patients who are not having symptoms such as chest pain.

Bonow, who is a professor of medicine at Chicago's Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, says one potential downside to the screening test is that it might lead to even more testing and potentially unnecessary invasive treatments like angioplasty.

"It is human nature to want to do something about a blockage when it is found, even if that blockage is not causing any symptoms," he says.

Blaha believes this concern is unfounded.

"CAC should be used to establish risk, but it should play no part in driving more testing," he says, adding that angioplasty should be considered only in patients with chest pain or other symptoms indicative of heart disease.

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