As the risk of heart disease continues to grow, researchers are looking for more effective diagnostic tools. Many health care providers fail to recognize the risk of heart disease among their patients until it is too late to treat. Understanding which tests are most effective will help them identify their patients’ risks before it is too late.
According to a new study from researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, heart calcium scans are one of the best predictors of heart disease. Â The study’s findings have been published in a recent issue of the American Heart Association.Â Doctors who have identified patients as being at risk of developing heart disease may place more emphasis on these studies in the future. The test takes computer tomography (CT) scans of the patient’s heart and looks for calcium buildups around major arteries.
Patients with high levels of calcium deposits are found to be at a greater risk of developing heart disease. Treating patients who aren’t at as high of a risk of developing heart problems is more difficult. Additionally, the risk category a patient is placed in is based on purely subjective determinations by the doctor.
Many are inaccurately classified as being at an intermediate risk of developing heart problems later in life, but the risk may actually be much higher or lower than originally thought. The authors wanted to assess the real risks of developing heart disease among patients who were labeled as intermediate risk and what tools were best for making that determination. The study was based onÂ data gathered in theÂ Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis conducted by theÂ National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
Many of the patients were referred from their physicians as being at intermediate risk of developing heart disease. However, subsequent tests found they were actually at either a high or low risk of developing the condition. The study found that these calcium scans were the most accurate tool for determining the patient’s true risk of developing the condition.
Although the study shows heart calcium scans are a highly effective tool for predicting heart disease, they are not a flawless indicator. A variety of factors may come into play and calcium levels may not always show when a patient is at risk of developing heart disease. Physicians find it much easier to treat patients who are at high risk of developing the condition.
[box type=”important”]The study shed light on how important it is for doctors to use sophisticated diagnostic tools to assess their patients risk of developing heart disease. Lead author Joseph Yeboah cautions that more research will needed to corroborate these findings. However, health care providers may place more emphasis on coronary artery calcium scans in the future to determine people’s risks of developing heart disease.[/box]