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Plaque Formation Even At An Early Age Could Increase Risk Of Heart Attack

Update Date: Feb 13, 2017 08:00 PM EST

A new study has recently revealed that young adults with calcified plaques in their arteries, no matter the amount, are at risk of a heart attack.

According to lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Carr, a professor of radiology, biomedical informatics and cardiovascular medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, heart diseases begin during adolescence and early adulthood. The research found that people aging 32 to 46 years old with the smallest amount of calcified plaque called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, can increase the risk of developing a fatal or nonfatal heart disease five times over the next 12 years.

For their study, researchers performed CT scans, which can detect the potentially deadly blockage, in more than 3,000 participants with an average age of 40. The study author's also said that even the smallest amount of plaque could increase the patient's risk of heart attack over the next decade by 10 percent, even without considering other risk factors.

However, Carr explained, "We don't think the message is for everybody to run out and get a CT scan." He also added saying that people with warning signs of being at risk of heart disease at a very young age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight or a smoker, may want to consider being scanned to see the severity of the risk, reported UPI.

Meanwhile, another specialist agreed to Carr's recommendation, but Dr. Philip Greenland, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said that there isn't enough evidence yet to recommend a routine CT Scans for people who have red flags of heart disease. Greenland also suggested that patients with known risk factors should be screened and any abnormal findings must be addressed.

"The fact that arterial blockages can occur in such young adults reinforces the need for much younger people -- like teenagers and 20- to 30-year-olds -- to follow healthy exercise and eating habits and not smoke," said Greenland. He is a professor of preventive medicine and co-author of an editorial accompanying the study.

According to Health Day, the American Heart Association explained that plaque consists of cholesterol, fatty substances, waste products from cells, calcium and fibrin which is a clotting material in the blood. Carr also once mentioned that the appearance of early plaque formation depends on a number of factors such as genetics, diet and lifestyle.

Until now, getting rid of plaques in the arteries is still unknown; however, living a heart-healthy lifestyle might help, as suggested by Carr and another heart specialist. "This study reinforces the idea that disease in the coronary arteries starts early, way before a heart attack actually occurs," said Dr. Byron Lee of the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Lee continued saying that even patients not experiencing symptoms may also have an increased risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke and even death. This should warn them to lower the potential risk factors they can control, explained Dr. Lee, who is a professor of medicine and chair of arrhythmia research at UCSF.

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