A calcium score can be a powerful motivator for my high-risk patients to take their cholesterol-lowering statins.
The heart scan has risks and isn’t for everyone. CT scanners use radiation to detect calcium deposits in coronary artery walls.
Why Is A Calcium Score Test Unique?
The calcium heart score test measures coronary artery calcium in plaque, which cannot be imaged non-invasively. Heart vessels are five times more likely to form plaque than other organs. A CT scan of the heart can predict if you are a “plaque builder” and other non-coronary diseases.
Non-invasive plaque measurement is difficult. Plaque absorbs calcium, which a heart scan can detect. On a CT scan, calcium sparkles and can be counted. Coronary artery calcium measures plaque. Plaques in coronary arteries can slowly grow and obstruct blood flow. Exertion may cause chest pressure or discomfort. Plaques can rupture suddenly, causing a blood clot that obstructs a coronary artery and a heart attack.
Calcium Score’s Importance
The higher the coronary calcium score, the more plaque in the artery wall and heart attack risk. A calcium score predicts heart attack.
Who Needs A Calcium Score?
A heart scan benefits everyone with a moderate risk of heart disease, but those with a low or high risk may not. Moderate risk is an ASCVD risk score of 5-7.5%. When your ASCVD score is low and you have a family history of early-onset heart attacks, you may be at moderate risk.
These People Shouldn’t Have A Heart Scan:
- Men under 40 and women under 50, because few have detectable calcium.
- Low-risk people with no family history of early heart attacks have low calcium levels.
- People who are already at high risk, because a heart scan won’t help guide treatment decisions.
- People with heart disease symptoms or a diagnosis, because a heart scan won’t help doctors understand progression or risks.
How’d You Do?
Do you have plaque? YES, you make plaque if your calcium score is above 0.
What’s Your Plaque Level Compared To Others Your Age?
Our scoring system:
- Plaque’s presence and meaning
- No plaque
- Heart disease risk 5%
- Low heart attack risk
- There’s some plaque
- Heart disease risk under 10%
- Low heart attack risk
- Mild heart disease
- Moderate cardiac risk
- Moderate plaque buildup
- Plaque may block an artery.
- Sign of heart disease
- Lots of plaque
- Over 90% chance that plaque blocks an artery
High Risk Of Heart Attack
Your doctor will order more tests and start treatment.
How Risky Is This Procedure?
A CT scan emits as much radiation as 10 x-rays. This requires a doctor’s written order.
What Should Scan Patients Expect?
The Heart Scan Uses No Dye
During a heart scan, you’ll lie on your back on a table that moves your body into a CT scanner, minus your head (a hollow tube). The technician directs you behind a glass wall while taking photos. It takes 10–15 minutes. You should be able to drive home and continue your day after the scan.
A button is pressed and the machine prints your results and score for your doctor. It’s nearly foolproof because it’s automated.
Can This Procedure Be Changed?
A stress test, risk factor assessment, or cholesterol test could replace this. Your doctor can suggest tests for you.