Heart disease is the leading killer among Americans, with more than 500,000 men and women dying each year. If you’re at risk for heart disease, did you know a simple heart scan could reduce your risk—and even save your life—by detecting heart disease early?
What Is Coronary Calcium Scoring?
Coronary calcium scoring—also called cardiac calcium scoring—uses a type of x-ray test called computed tomography (CT) to view calcium buildup on the coronary arteries. The CT scans the heart in small “slices,” allowing your doctor to determine the precise area of your heart that may be at risk for heart disease and blockages. The test is painless and noninvasive, and only takes minutes to perform.
By pinpointing and determining the calcium blockages in your coronary arteries, doctors can recommend lifestyle changes to help prevent heart disease and further reduce your risk. A low coronary calcium score suggests a reduced risk for coronary artery disease—though it does not exclude the possibility of your coronary arteries narrowing. Once your score is determined, your physician helps you understand the results and your risk for heart disease, taking into account other factors, such as family history, age, gender, tobacco use, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
Who Should Get the Scan?
Coronary calcium scans are recommended for men between the ages of 45 and 75; women between the ages of 55 and 75; and younger adults with two or more risk factors for heart disease. Risk factors include:
● Family history or premature coronary artery disease
● High cholesterol
● High or low LDL (bad cholesterol) levels
● Tobacco use
● Peripheral arterial disease
● Symptomatic carotid arterial disease
Benefits of Calcium Scoring, and Things to Keep in Mind
Your physician will recommend a coronary calcium scoring test if you’re at medium risk for coronary artery disease—meaning your risk factors suggest a 10 to 20 percent risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. The results give your doctor more information for determining your risk, and can lead to better health management and early detection.
For patients at a low risk for heart disease, physical exams and other tests might provide enough information about your heart’s health. Calcium scoring tests are not recommended for routine screenings, because the scans show plaque in the coronary arteries even if you do not have coronary heart disease. There are many other tests that allow your doctor to gauge how healthy your heart is. Ask your physician about these studies or call 1-800-445-3392 for a free physician referral.
Coronary Calcium Score Card (Central Florida Regional Hospital)
Cardiac Calcium Scoring (WebMD)
Heart Disease Facts (Centers for Disease Control)