Coronary artery calcification (CAC) is the buildup of calcium in the arteries, whose job it is to carry oxygenated blood from the heart to other parts of the body.
The calcium deposits harden the arteries
It can cause blood vessels to narrow, leading to the development of Heart Disease.
This is similar to atherosclerosis, where the arteries become narrowed due to cholesterol/fat deposits.
In Coronary Artery Calcification, the calcium is first deposited on the inside walls of the arteries, then becomes hardened by fibrous tissue.
As this plaque grows, it narrows the space in the artery tubes (called lumens) reducing both the oxygen and blood supply to the heart.
When the coronary arteries are affected this way, the person can develop angina, which is severe pain in the chest, often spreading to the shoulders, arms, and neck, caused by an inadequate blood supply to the heart.
A heart attack, congestive heart failure, and abnormal cardiac rhythms can develop as well.
The plaque may eventually block the artery so severely that it causes the death of the tissue supplied by the artery, leading to a heart attack.
It takes a special type of Xray you may have heard called a “CT Scan” to identify Coronary Artery Calcification. The term stands for “cardiac computed tomography” and it locates the build-up of calcium on the artery walls.
This is the most effective way to find those patients who face an increased risk of heart disease and allows for early intervention.
A study published in the European Heart Journal compared three markers of heart health to see which worked best at predicting cardiovascular risk in healthy adults.
➡ The markers included coronary artery calcification, the thickness of the carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain and the measure of blood flow to the ankles.
All three of these markers can be used to evaluate heart risks, even in patients without symptoms.
- The study evaluated more than 3,100 adults without heart disease.
- The participants were followed for ten years, tracking heart-related deaths, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Roughly 7% of the participants experienced a heart attack, stroke or other deaths related to heart disease.
After analyzing the outcomes, the researchers found the CT Scan to be the most effective method of identifying patients without symptoms, who are most likely to develop heart disease.
Most importantly, however, it can help find patients that should take extra steps to address any cardiovascular risk factors they may have, such as being overweight or having high blood pressure.
The more you know, the better choices you can make for your health.