Seeing calcium in their arteries prompts patients to take statins

By Reuters Health

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Patients who see for themselves the buildup of calcium in their coronary arteries become more compliant about taking statins and are more likely to lose weight, researchers said on Saturday.

The finding resulted from two studies presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) in Chicago. Researchers analyzed data on patients tested for heart disease using cardiac artery calcium (CAC) scoring with cardiac computed tomography. They said those with the most advanced disease who saw images of their heart were 2.5 times more likely to take their statins as directed and more than three times as likely to have lost weight compared with those who had a scan and could see little or no evidence of disease. “Beyond the diagnostic and predictive value of cardiac computed tomography, it is also quite beneficial in terms of motivating people to pursue behaviors that we know result in a reduction in cardiovascular mortality and morbidity,” said Dr. Nove Kalia, one of the lead researchers for both studies. “What’s most interesting is that the higher the person’s calcium score, the more likely they were to be compliant,” Dr. Kalia said.

While other studies have examined the impact that patient-viewed heart scans can have on behavior, these are the first large-scale studies to corroborate similar finds. One of Dr. Kalia’s analyses that looked at statin compliance included 2,100 people. It found compliance was lowest among those who had the lowest possible CAC score of 0. Those with the highest scores were more likely to take their drugs, when adjusted for age, gender, and race. Similar trends were found in the 518-patient weight loss study, researchers said. Behavior modification was lowest among patients who saw little evidence of disease and was highest among those with high CAC scores. “With increasing use of noninvasive imaging, it seems we already have a powerful tool in helping to motivate patients to be compliant,” Dr. Kalia said, adding that additional research is needed to confirm the findings and look at how better compliance leads to better outcomes.

Dr. Kalia’s team also cautioned that the database they used went back a decade, a period when cardiac CT scans were performed more routinely than they are today. Because any CT scan exposes a patient to radiation, cardiac CT is now typically used only on patients at moderate to high risk or in emergency situations.

By Debra Sherman and Ransdell Pierson Last Updated: 2012-03-26 15:25:17 -0400 (Reuters Health) Copyright © 2012 Reuters Limited.

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