When is the best time to get a coronary artery calcium scan?

A medical image shows the coronary arteries

Medical decisions about screening younger adults for a hardening of their arteries, an indicator for heart disease, have often varied. Now, an NHLBI-supported study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests timelines for coronary artery calcium scans based on a review of 22,346 young to middle-aged adults.  

The study’s researchers recommend men with diabetes receive these types of cardiac scans, which help identify the earliest formation of plaque that can block blood flow or rupture, at age 37. For women with diabetes, the ideal age is 50. For adults without known risks for premature heart disease, the authors say an ideal time is age 42 for men and 58 for women.  
To create these recommendations, researchers partnered with adults who had a significant family history of heart disease or other cardiovascular disease risk factors. Based on these and other imaging exams, researchers found that about one-third of adults in the study had early signs of coronary artery calcification. Upon further review, they found adults with diabetes started accumulating calcium deposits in their coronary arteries six years earlier than adults without diabetes. Adults who smoked, had high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or who had a family history of heart disease started showing signs of calcium accumulation three to four years in advance.