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2 Tests May Improve Heart Patients' Care, Studies Suggest
Date:8/22/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors are always looking for better ways to predict who will have a heart attack, especially in people who have an intermediate risk of heart disease. Now, studies have compared some available tests and found just one that was significantly better than the others: coronary artery calcium scans.

A special type of CT scanning can produce images that show if there are calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. Someone with signs of coronary artery calcium has 2.6 times greater odds of having a heart attack than someone who doesn't have these deposits, according to one of the studies.

"Coronary artery calcium is far superior [at predicting heart attack] to all of the other top-tier markers we studied," said Dr. Joseph Yeboah, the lead author of one of the studies and an assistant professor of cardiology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Results from both studies appear in the Aug. 22 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Doctors currently rely on a test called the Framingham Risk Score to assess a person's heart disease risk. According to Yeboah, however, this test is only good for those in the low- and high-risk categories. If someone falls in the middle on the Framingham score, the best course of action is not always clear.

Many other seemingly useful tests have been studied on their own, but Yeboah and his colleagues wanted to know how these tests would fare if they were compared to one another. So they compared coronary artery calcium scans, ankle-brachial index, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP), family history, carotid intima-media thickness and brachial flow-mediated dilation to see how well each predicted heart disease.

The ankle-brachial index compares the blood pressure in your arm to the blood pressure at your ankle. High-sensitivity CRP is a blood t
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