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Coronary Calcium Measurement Predicts Heart Events in Multiple Ethnic Groups

Embargoed for Release:
March 26, 2008, 5:00 PM EDT

Greater amounts of calcium deposits in a person's arteries, as measured by a CT scan, increase the likelihood of a future coronary event such as a heart attack, angina, or death from coronary heart disease, according to a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. This study is the first to confirm this finding in multiple ethnic groups. The predictive value of coronary calcium measurements was similar among the 6,722 white, black, Hispanic and Chinese patients studied even in the ethnic groups where coronary calcification was less prevalent.

The findings, titled "Coronary Calcium as a Predictor of Coronary Events in Four Ethnic Groups," from NHLBI's Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) are published in the March 27, 2008, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Coronary calcium scanning, measured by a CT scan of the heart, looks for specks of calcium called calcifications in the walls of the coronary arteries. Calcifications indicate disease in the arteries that can lead to heart disease.

CT scanning can detect calcifications in a relatively non-invasive manner, although it does expose the person to some radiation.  This study did not address whether routine screening for coronary calcium would be beneficial.

Diane Bild, M.D.,M.P.H., deputy director of NHLBI's Division of Prevention and Population Sciences, is available for comment. To schedule interviews, contact the NHLBI Communications Office at 301-496-4236 or at