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New screening questionnaire can identify people at high risk of developing heart disease

Research Highlights:

  • A new study in a Swedish population of middle-aged adults found that four out of 10 people have atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty deposits that reduce blood flow to the heart.
  • Early detection of coronary artery disease is needed in order to provide preventive treatment and decrease the risk of heart attack.
  • Researchers developed a personalized screening strategy to identify individuals with a higher probability of developing cardiovascular disease.

Embargoed until 12:34 p.m. CT/1:34 p.m. CT, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020

(NewMediaWire) – November 13, 2020 – DALLAS – More than 40% of middle-aged adults have silent coronary artery disease. Researchers have developed a new screening questionnaire to help identify individuals at the highest risk for coronary artery disease, according to late-breaking research presented today at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020. The virtual meeting is Friday, November 13-Tuesday, November 17, 2020. It is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science for health care.

Coronary artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis, or deposits of fats, cholesterol and calcium in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. Early detection of coronary artery disease is possible by imaging blood vessels using coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) imaging; however, it can be expensive and requires specialized equipment.

“The buildup of plaque does not cause symptoms in the early phases of atherosclerosis yet may lead to reduced blood flow to the heart and result in a heart attack,” said Göran Bergström, M.D., Ph.D., professor and lead physician at Sahlgrenska Academy, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden and lead author of this study. “We investigated whether a personalized screening strategy using data easily measured at home could predict which patients are at high risk of developing heart disease.”

The Swedish CArdioPulmonary BioImage Study (SCAPIS) included more than 30,000 men and women, ages 50-64 years, who had no history of prior heart attack or cardiac intervention.  Participants were asked questions about gender, age, smoking, body measurements, cholesterol medication and blood pressure to predict their risk of coronary artery disease.

Researchers then used CCTA images to examine patients’ arteries for the presence of plaque. More than 25,000 individuals from the original sample were successfully imaged. The imaging results found that silent coronary artery disease was common, with 42% of participants having plaque in their coronary arteries. A higher prevalence of atherosclerosis was observed in men and in older individuals.

In this Swedish cohort, responses to the screening questions successfully predicted which individuals had severe atherosclerosis and were at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“We were surprised that atherosclerosis was so widespread and that we could rather easily predict it with simple questions,” Bergstrom said. “Our study lays the foundation for development of a home-based screening strategy to help combat cardiovascular disease. We can find people at high risk of having silent coronary artery disease using a simple screening questionnaire followed by a clinical visit to a health-care facility to define the risk further using CCTA imaging.”

This study is the first report from SCAPIS, a collaborative project between six Swedish universities with the vision statement: to reduce the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases for generations to come.

Co-authors are Martin Adiels, Ph.D.; Elias Björnsson, M.Sc.; Anders Blomberg, M.D., Ph.D.; Carl Bonander, Ph.D.; Gunnar Engström, M.D., Ph.D.; Margaretha Persson, Ph.D.; Johan Sundström, M.D., Ph.D.; Carl Johan Östgren, M.D., Ph.D.; and Tomas Jernberg, M.D., Ph.D. Author disclosures are listed in the abstract.

The researchers reported funding from the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation.

Note: Session: LBS.02 – Bending the Curve for CV Disease – Precision or PolyPill?

Additional Resources:

Statements and conclusions of studies that are presented at the American Heart Association’s scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the Association’s policy or position. The Association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers are available here, and the Association’s overall financial information is available here.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

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For Media Inquiries and AHA Expert Perspective:

AHA News Media in Dallas: 214-706-1173; ahacommunications@heart.org

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and stroke.org



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