Calcium test could help identify those most at risk of a heart attack

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Researchers say measuring the levels of calcium in someone’s arteries should be used for the primary prevention of heart disease.

The results of a new study show looking at levels of coronary artery calcium (CAC) is better than looking at C-reactive protein (CRP) when it comes to predicting cardiovascular events, like hearts attacks and strokes.

Scientists go on to show measuring CAC levels may help to indentify people who would benefit from statins to reduce their risk of heart disease, despite having normal cholesterol levels. The researchers argue CAC testing should be carried out on those with normal cholesterol levels but who have other risk factors, like obesity or a family history of heart disease.

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

“The greatest challenge for preventive medicine is identifying people who are at highest risk of heart disease and who should therefore be given drugs, particularly statins, to reduce that risk.

“This study has shown that coronary artery calcium is better than C-reactive protein at identifying people at highest risk of a future heart attack. But the former is expensive and involves radiation so it’s unlikely to be offered as a screening test for everyone.

“Nevertheless, it’s likely it will be increasingly used in the coming years to refine how we identify those most in need of preventive medicines.”

The study into CAC and CRP was published in the Lancet.

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