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Why You Must Know Your Heart Calcium Score: Predicting Overall Health

By May 18, 2024Kahn Longevity Center
calcium score
There is much interest in strategies to address aging and prolong lifespan and healthspan. An industry has grown up of tests offered to measure “biological age”. These usually involve samples of blood or cheek swabs. A prior study indicated that the widely available coronary artery calcium score (CACS) done by non-contrast CT imaging can predict health and disease throughout the body.

A new study provides important additional support for the importance of knowing your CACS. 

STUDY

The researchers used data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study to evaluate the association of CACS with measures of healthy and unhealthy aging testing in adults aged ≥75 years.

The study included 2,290 participants aged ≥75 years free of known coronary heart disease who underwent CACS testing. The divided the results into three groups, CACS = 0, 1-999, and ≥1000 and measured seven domains of aging: cognitive function, hearing, ankle-brachial index (ABI), pulse-wave velocity (PWV), forced vital capacity (FVC), physical functioning, and grip strength.

RESULTS

The mean age was 80 years, 38.6% male, and 78% White.

Of the participants, 10.3% had CACS = 0 and 19.2% had CACS≥1000.

Individuals with CACS = 0 had the lowest while those with CAC≥1000 had the highest proportion with dementia (2% vs 8%), hearing impairment (46% vs 67%), low ABI (3% vs 18%), high PWV (27% vs 41%), reduced FVC (34% vs 42%), impaired grip strength (66% vs 74%), and mean composite abnormal aging score (2.6 vs 3.7).

Participants with CACS≥1000 were more likely to have low ABI (74% increaesed risk), high PWV (52% increase), impaired physical functioning 35% increase), and impaired grip strength (46% increase).

CONCLUSIONS

The study results highlight CACS as a simple measure broadly associated with biological aging, with clinical and research implications for estimating the physical and physiological aging trajectory of older individuals.

The CACS is widely available at hospitals and imaging centers, involves no injections, takes just a few seconds, and often costs $100 or less.

These data indicate that the CACS may be the most available and cost-effective method of not only measuring cardiac aging, but assessing aging throughout the body.

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