SATURDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Showing patients with clogged arteries evidence of their condition makes them more likely to stick with treatments such as weight loss and cholesterol-lowering statins, two related studies found.

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in Americans, but many patients fail to adhere to therapies that can treat or prevent heart disease. For example, patient compliance with statin therapy has been reported to be as low as 20 percent to 50 percent, the researchers said.

The two studies included patients who underwent coronary artery calcium scoring with cardiac CT, a test that takes clear, detailed pictures of the heart.

Patients with the most severe coronary artery disease who saw images of their heart were 2.5 times more likely to take statins as directed, and more than three times more likely to lose weight as those whose scans showed little or no evidence of disease.

The studies were scheduled for presentation Saturday at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) annual meeting in Chicago.

"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" disease and death, Dr. Nove Kalia, one of the lead investigators for both studies, said in an ACC news release.

"Seeing a coronary artery calcium scan gives patients a visual picture of how severe their disease is, and this picture seems to have a really big impact," Kalia added. "With increasing use of noninvasive imaging, it seems we already have a powerful tool in helping to motivate patients to be compliant. While we haven't clarified whether this increased compliance results in reductions in [heart] event rates, we have extrapolated that this would likely be the case. I think we may find this can also help improve outcomes."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about coronary artery disease.