Healthy Western Australians with a family history of heart disease are being invited to volunteer for a major study that could help lower the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) in families with a background of heart health issues.

The study is part of a National Health and Medical Research Council-funded trial being conducted in several states.

Professor Gerald Watts, Head of the Lipid Disorders Clinic at Royal Perth Hospital, who is leading the study in Western Australia, said many heart attacks were the result of an inherited predisposition to CAD.

“But unless a person is found to have high levels of cholesterol in their blood, we cannot be sure how best to treat them,” he said.

“This trial will help us determine whether a scan of the heart (to measure calcium build-up in the arteries) and prescription of a simple medication offers the best form of preventative therapy.”

Professor Watts said prospective volunteers would need to:

• be aged between 40 and 70 years
• be healthy and without heart problems
• have an immediate family member who – before turning 60 – had a heart attack, a coronary stent inserted or underwent heart surgery
• have a aunty or uncle or grandparent who – before the age of 50 – had a heart attack, a coronary stent inserted or underwent heart surgery
• not be taking a statin (cholesterol-lowering drug).

Professor Watts said the study would compare two pathways of care: routine care (normal care provided by the participant’s regular GP) and guided care (a closely monitored form of care in which the participant would be given advice on diet, exercise and cholesterol-lowering medication). This advice would be based on the patient’s heart calcium score.

Volunteers who meet initial prerequisites for the trial will undergo the heart scan to determine their calcium scores (a measure of the calcium build-up in their arteries and an indicator of coronary risk) but only those found to be at low to medium risk will be eligible for the study.

The study meets strict ethical and governance requirements and all participants will receive optimal care under current best-practice guidelines.

Professor Watts said those who volunteered for the study would be making an important contribution to science and advancing the care and treatment of people with serious heart problems.

To register interest in the trial contact Jackie Ryan, the study Clinical Coordinator, on telephone 9224 0388, fax 9224 0329 or email caught-cad-smp@uwa.edu.au