Science

Watch Now: Study Shows Value of Heart Scans for Detecting Heart Attack Risk, Avoiding Extra Medication

What would you do if a basic test could help you and your doctor determine if you have limited risk of heart disease? And what if based on that test, you opt to use simple lifestyle changes — diet and exercise — to lower your risk of having a heart attack?

“We believe that irrespective of age, coronary artery calcium testing provides a personalized assessment of risk to help a clinician accurately weigh treatments, as well as allow patients to make a more informed decision regarding the need for a lifelong commitment to preventive medications, such as statins,” says Khurram Nasir, M.D., and medical director of the Center for Healthcare Advancement and Outcomes at Baptist Health South Florida.

Dr. Nasir is the senior author of a groundbreaking study — Implications of Coronary Artery Calcium Testing Among Statin Candidates — published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study is part of the medical debate sparked by the new American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association cholesterol management guidelines.

The American Heart Association guidelines use formulas heavily dependent on age to determine an individual’s potential for having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. Under those guidelines, results from traditional risk factor calculations could make an individual a candidate for heart disease management with statins, a type of medication known to reduce risk for heart attack. For example, almost all men and the majority of women age 65 and older are considered for statin treatment, even if they do not have other risk factors, such as high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes or hypertension, whereas many young individuals are not considered at risk.

But the CAC testing offers patients and their doctors a better tool for measuring the risk of a future heart attack, says Dr. Nasir, who is also an adjunct faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“Considering the heart scan is the most accurate predictor of heart attacks, costs only $75 to $100, takes two to three minutes to perform, is widely available and associated with minimal radiation, the debate has shifted from ‘Why heart scan?’ to ‘Why not?’ ” Dr. Nasir says.

He recently spoke about his latest study with the Baptist Health News Team. Watch now.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.