New Study Shows Young Adults Who Develop Early Coronary Plaque are Ten Times More Likely to Die from Heart Disease

New Study Shows Young Adults Who Develop Early Coronary Plaque are Ten Times More Likely to Die from Heart Disease

Study demonstrated that one-third of young adults screened for coronary disease had plaque in their arteries despite being “low risk” by traditional assessment

Minneapolis and Anaheim, Calif. – Nov. 14, 2017 – Michael Miedema, MD, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, is the lead author on an abstract presented the American Heart Association’s Scientific session that evaluated mortality rates in 22,346 adults age 30-49 years who underwent coronary artery calcium (CAC) scoring. The study analyzed data from the CAC consortium, a multi-center study evaluating the association of CAC scores with long-term mortality. The study conclusions show that even after adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, the presence of CAC in young adults was associated with significant increased risk of mortality.

“Traditionally, CAC scoring has been used to personalize cardiovascular risk in middle-age adults, with a recommendation that young adults not undergo testing due to the fact that they are unlikely to have plaque,” said Miedema. “However, we found that one-third of our sample had coronary plaque and those who had plaque were clearly at higher risk for death from heart disease and all-cause mortality.”

Miedema also points out that young adults in this study had clinical indications for a CAC score, with a high prevalence of abnormal cholesterol levels as well as a family history of cardiovascular disease. “This group is not a general sample of the population, the majority of these individuals had at least one reason to be concerned about their risk for a heart attack.”

Due to the young age of the sample, over 90 percent were considered “low risk” by traditional methods of risk assessment. With CAC testing, 34 percent were found to have at least some plaque and 7 percent were found to have significant plaque, with a CAC score of 100 or greater. Subsequent rates of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality were all significantly higher in those with mildly increased and significantly increased CAC scores. The risk of death from coronary heart disease over 10 years in individuals with zero CAC was extremely low (0.07%), whereas those with significant plaque (CAC>100) were approximately 10-times more likely to die from heart disease (0.69%). 

About the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation®

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF) strives to create a world without heart and vascular disease. To achieve this bold vision, it is dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health of individuals and communities through innovative research and education.

  • Scientific Innovation and Research — MHIF is a recognized research leader in the broadest range of cardiovascular medicine and population health initiatives. Each year MHIF leads more than 175 active research projects and publishes more than 175 peer-reviewed abstracts. Cardiologists, hospitals and communities around the world adopt MHIF protocols to save lives, improve care and create healthier living opportunities.
  • Education and Outreach — MHIF provides more than 10,000 hours of education each year putting its research into practice to improve outcomes. And, MHIF leads cutting-edge, transformative population health research to connect, engage, inform and empower individuals and communities to improve their health.

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s work is funded by generous donors and sponsors and supports research initiatives of Minneapolis Heart Institute® at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Minneapolis Heart Institute® physicians provide care for patients at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and at 38 community sites across Minnesota and western Wisconsin.