June 13 (UPI) — Middle-aged people with high levels of coronary artery calcium are at a higher risk for heart failure, new research shows.

And that risk increases up to four times higher for black people compared to white people, according to findings published Friday in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.

“The greater propensity for heart diseases among blacks can be explained, at least in part, because cardiovascular risk factors are more prevalent and usually appear earlier in these individuals than in whites,” Henrique Moreira, a researcher at the University of São Paulo and study author, told UPI. “Moreover, genetic factors and race-related cardiac impairment pathways might be implicated in these racial differences.”

When calcified plaque containing calcium, cholesterol and fat accumulates it creates coronary artery calcium, or CAC. This can lead to atherosclerosis, which decreases blood flow by narrowing the arteries. This type of calcium is not related to dietary calcium.

For the study, the researchers used non-invasive computed tomography imaging to test the vascular health of nearly 2,500 people. More than half of the people in the study were white and women.

The researchers contrasted their CAC scores at the study’s 15-year mark to that of the 25-year mark, when the average participant reached age 50. A score of zero means no risk of heart issues, but the danger of developing one goes up for each point accumulated.

By the end of the study, the percent of study participants with zero CAC scores was 72 percent, versus 77 percent 10 years prior.

“Those with coronary artery calcium progression over time showed signs of adverse cardiac remodeling at middle age, especially African-Americans. Of note, for every 1-unit change in coronary artery calcium score, blacks had a four-times higher increase in left ventricular mass compared to whites,” Moreira said. “The greater propensity for heart disease among blacks can be explained, at least in part, because cardiovascular risk factors are more prevalent and usually appear earlier in these individuals than in whites.”

Middle-aged people with higher CAC scores had a 12 percent increased risk of developing a left ventricular mass and a 9 percent elevated risk of developing left ventricular volume versus people with a zero CAC score. These accumulations in the left ventricle can thicken the heart, which increases the chance of heart failure.

For black people, the risk of developing a mass was four times more likely for every point on the CAC score compared to white people with the same score.

Overall, the risk of cardiovascular disease is 60 percent for black men and 57 percent for black women versus 50 percent for white men and 43 percent for white women.

“These findings suggest that strict cardiovascular risk factors control, starting during young adulthood, may result in better cardiovascular function at middle age, especially in black individuals,” Moreira said.



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