African Americans Have Higher Heart Attack Risk
Reported July 1, 2011
(Ivanhoe Newswire)—Studies have shown that African Americans are at a greater
risk of heart attacks, but what causes this? According to a recent study,
African Americans have greater levels of non-calcified plaque consisting of
buildups of soft deposits deep in the arterial walls. This type of plaque is
more vulnerable to rupturing and causing blood clots which could lead to a heart
attack or other cardiovascular event.
Joseph Schoepf, M.D., professor of radiology and medicine and director of
cardiovascular imaging at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston was
quotes saying, “For a long time, physicians have searched for explanations as to
why African Americans have higher rates of heart disease and higher cardiac
death rates, but less coronary artery calcium than Caucasians. We show that one
possible explanation for the discrepancy may be found in the higher rate of less
stable, non-calcified plaque in the heart vessels of African Americans.”
Increased levels of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries generally
correlate with a greater risk of heart attack or other cardiovascular events.
For this study, researchers compared 301 patients who underwent both calcium
scoring with CT, a common screening tool for patients at risk for cardiovascular
disease, and a contrast-enhanced coronary CT angiography (cCTA). cCTA provides a
more comprehensive picture of the arteries.
CT scanning, sometimes called CAT scanning, is a noninvasive medical test that
scans the internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels and provides
more clarity than regular x-ray exams. Angiography is a minimally invasive
medical test that uses imaging technologies and, in some cases, a contrast
material to produce pictures of major blood vessels throughout the body.
This study on calcium scoring was comprised 50 percent of African Americans and
50 percent of Caucasians, 33 percent of whom were males. Calcium scoring
revealed that calcified plaque was much more prevalent in the coronary arteries
of Caucasian patients than in African Americans. The cCTA revealed that,
compared with Caucasian patients, many more African Americans had non-calcified
plaque, and in greater amounts.
Dr. Schoepf was quoted saying, “The results of coronary artery calcium scoring
studies are to be treated with caution in African Americans, because they may
not reflect the true extent of cardiovascular disease. For African American
patients, coronary CT angiography may be a more appropriate screening tool for
SOURCE: Radiology, June 27, 2011