Calcium deposits in arteries seen as new threat for stroke

People who have calcium deposits clogging their arteries are more likely to have a stroke, even if they don’t have other health conditions that put them at risk, a long-term German study found.

Over the course of eight years, researchers at the University Hospital in Essen assessed plaque that blocked the coronary arteries of nearly 4,200 men and women, ages 45 to 75. To measure the amounts, they used a non-invasive variation of a computed-tomography scan, which uses electron beams.

Among the 92 people who had strokes, the research team found that most had arterial blockages that involved calcification. Those with a particularly high density of calcium deposits were three times more likely to have a stroke.

The study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, also found that the most accurate assessments on who was at greatest risk were for people under the age of 65 who had coronary artery calcification but were otherwise unlikely to have cardiovascular disease.

“This study demonstrates that stroke risk is tightly aligned with coronary atherosclerosis, showing the closely related nature of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease,” said study leader Dirk Hermann, M.D., who is a professor of vascular neurology and dementia at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany.

Hermann said the presence of CAC should now be considered an accurate indication of who may suffer a stroke even when the patients don’t suffer from arterial fibrillation, which is a type of irregular heartbeat that is frequently linked to strokes.

The role that coronary blockages play in heightening the risk of a heart attack or a stroke also is an indication of the dietary and lifestyle choices that people should make to avoid both health problems. Eating a heart-healthy diet and taking supplements such as CholesterLite from Dr. Newton’s Naturals, which is rich in omega-3 oils, is one way to lower the risk of an attack.