According to a new study published online in the journal Radiology, African Americans have increased levels of non-calcified plaque, which consists of buildups of soft deposits deep in the walls of the arteries that are not detected by some cardiac tests. Non-calcified plaque is more vulnerable to rupturing and causing a blood clot, which could lead to a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, African American adults are more likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease and are at greater risk of death from heart disease than white adults. In 2007, African American men were 30 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white men to die from heart disease.
“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,” said U. Joseph Schoepf, M.D., professor of radiology and medicine and director of cardiovascular imaging at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. “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.”
Calcium scoring with CT is a common screening tool for patients at risk for cardiovascular disease, because increased levels of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries generally correlates with a greater risk of heart attack or other cardiovascular event. However, calcium scoring does not detect non-calcified plaque.
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