Plaque in your abdomen is a strong clue that there is plaque in your heart: heart disease, says a Henry Ford Hospital study.

When a CT abdominal scan shows very high degrees of abdominal aortic calcium, these patients are about 60 percent at risk of having CAD: coronary artery disease.

Plus, the presence of the abdominal aortic calcium (high levels) increases the risk of death.

Not surprisingly, the absence of abdominal aortic calcium is associated with low risk of the coronary artery disease.

Explains Mouaz Al-Mallah, MD, director of Cardiac Imaging Research at Henry Ford and lead author of the study:

“If you get a CT scan on your abdomen, there’s probably a good chance that image can provide us with more information about the health of your heart arteries.”

He adds: “This study clearly demonstrates that higher scores of abdominal aortic calcium are associated with higher rates of coronary artery disease and mortality.”

For this study, 367 patients underwent the abdominal CT, along with cardiac catheterization, both within one year.

This study showed that if a person has heart disease (coronary artery plaque buildup), plus abdominal aortic calcifications, his or her chance of dying is greater than if the individual has only the heart disease.

Common known risk factors for heart disease:

  • smoking, obesity and overweight
  • high fat diet
  • lack of exercise
  • emotional stress
  • family history
  • diabetes, high blood pressure.

Not so well-known risk factors for heart disease: sleep apnea, chronic sleep habits of less than six hours a night, chronic sleep habits of more than nine hours a night, BMI (body mass index) of at least in the “overweight” range, apple-shaped body (excess abdominal fat), ingestion of trans fats (manmade fat found in many foods), excess sugar/high fructose corn syrup intake, insulin resistance (forerunner of type 2 diabetes).

Surprising fact about heart attacks:

  • About half occur in people who have cholesterol numbers in the normal range.
  • Cholesterol profile is not an accurate indicator of heart disease.
  • Though the gold standard for detecting coronary artery disease is the catheter angiogram, this tool is very invasive and thus, carries substantial risks like stroke and arterial damage.

A less invasive but accurate diagnostic tool for coronary artery disease is the CT angiogram. The CT calcium score is also a highly regarded diagnostic tool.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/Cessna152
Source: Henry Ford Health System (2010, March 15). Plaque on CT scan is strong predictor of heart disease, worse long-term outcomes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 26, 2010, from­