Coronary artery calcium is the buildup of calcified plaque made up of fat, calcium, and cholesterol.
The calcium in the plaque is different from dietary calcium.
Increased cholesterol levels in the blood can lead to plaque buildup, known as a condition called atherosclerosis, which narrows an artery and reduces blood flow.
Previous studies has shown that coronary artery calcium can harm heart health, and the American Heart Association suggest it needs to be added to a screening test to improve early detection of heart health problems.
In a recent study, scientists found that increased coronary artery calcium levels in middle-age are linked to future heart failure.
The study is published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. One author is Henrique Turin Moreira, M.D., Ph.D.
In the study, the team examined almost 2500 people from young adulthood to middle-age.
They used non-invasive computed tomography imaging tests to gauge the participants’ vascular health.
They found that by year 25, participants’ average age was about 50. About 72% of the group had a coronary artery calcium score of zero compared with 77% a decade earlier.
Increases in the scores were related to aging, male, higher blood pressure, higher total cholesterol, diabetes, and current smoking.
The high scores were also linked to the use of medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
The team also found that people had higher scores at middle-age had a 12% increase in left heart ventricular mass and a 9% increase in left heart ventricular volume.
Abnormalities in the left ventricle mean the heart needs to work harder to effectively pump blood. It is a big risk factor for heart failure.
The team says early adulthood to middle-age is a window in which abnormalities might not be causing symptoms, but could later increase the risk of heart problems.
They suggest that early identification of risks are very important to people at a high risk of the condition.
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