Heart scan may help cut cholesterol, blood pressure


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Calcium heart scans could help people lower their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to a new study on the controversial x-ray tests.

Several professional groups are already pushing for more widespread use of the scans, yet they’ve never been shown to cut the risk that people will die from heart disease.

What’s more, recent studies have found no evidence that screening healthy people’s hearts will influence their lifestyle or medication (see Reuters Health story of March 18, 2011).

This lack of encouraging data has led some experts to fear that computed tomography (CT) — a type of high-dose x-rays, which include calcium scans — might do more harm than good.

For instance, a typical CT scan exposes patients to several millisieverts of radiation. Experts say that translates into about one extra case of cancer per 1,000 typical scans.

For the new study, Dr. Alan Rozanski of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in New York and colleagues divided more than 2,100 healthy, middle-aged people into two groups. One got a calcium scan, the other didn’t.

Both groups of participants had some risk factors for heart disease at the outset — such as high blood pressure or obesity, for instance — and got counseling on how to reduce their risk.

Those who got scanned also went through their calcium scores with a nurse practitioner and received a copy of the scan that they could show their own doctor….

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