CT scans outperform genetics in predicting heart disease risk

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A new study conducted by Northwestern Medicine reveals that CT scans are more effective than genetics in predicting the risk of heart disease in middle-aged people.

The study, published in JAMA, highlights the significance of CT scans in identifying those at risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Traditionally, physicians rely on conventional measures of risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol levels to gauge an individual’s likelihood of developing coronary heart disease or arterial blockages in the heart.

However, some individuals may experience heart problems, including heart attacks, without these traditional factors indicating risk.

Genetics as a Risk Predictor

Given that the risk of heart disease can be hereditary, scientists have explored the potential of genetics to determine who is most susceptible to heart disease.

Researchers believed that polygenic risk scores, which compile genetic variants associated with heart disease, could offer a breakthrough in personalized medicine.

The Northwestern study directly compares the predictive power of genetics and CT scans for coronary artery calcium.

The findings indicate that CT scans outperform genetics in predicting heart disease risk in middle-aged individuals.

Implications for Heart Disease Risk Assessment

This study has significant implications for assessing heart disease risk in clinical practice.

It suggests that CT scans, which reveal coronary artery calcium, provide more accurate risk assessments than genetics.

When an individual’s risk level is uncertain or falls within the intermediate range, CT screening could be recommended to calculate their risk for heart disease.

Study Methodology

The study involved 3,208 adults from two cohort studies conducted in the United States and Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Researchers assessed various risk factors, including smoking status, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, genetics, and CT scan data to estimate the risk of heart disease over a follow-up period of up to 17 years.


CT scans are shown to be superior to genetics in predicting the risk of heart disease in middle-aged individuals.

This discovery underscores the value of CT scans as a powerful tool for identifying those at risk of heart disease, enabling healthcare professionals to make informed decisions about patient care and interventions, such as statin therapy, to reduce the risk of heart disease.

This research contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of risk assessment for heart disease and highlights the potential of CT scans as a valuable diagnostic and risk-stratification tool.

If you care about heart disease, please read studies about a big cause of heart failure, and common blood test could advance heart failure treatment.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about a new way to repair human heart, and results showing drinking coffee may help reduce heart failure risk.

The research findings can be found in JAMA.

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