If you have a moderate risk for heart disease, you might have heard your doctor mention a test called a coronary calcium scan. Coronary calcium scans are a helpful, non-invasive diagnostic test that help today’s cardiologists determine the amount of calcium build-up a patient has in their arteries.
Over time, plaque can slowly develop in your arteries, and with plaque build-up comes calcium deposits that also like to grow over time. Build-up of this plaque and calcium on your artery walls can block blood from flowing properly, greatly increasing your risk of coronary artery disease and a heart attack.
By running a CT scan on your heart, doctors can easily see how much calcium build-up is in your arteries. Where there’s calcium build-up, there’s also plaque too, and doctors can use this information to calculate your risk of future adverse cardiac events, along with a calcium score.
If you score a zero on your calcium score, that means there’s no calcified plaque in your arteries and it’s unlikely for you to have coronary artery disease. Any score less than 100 indicates there is some calcified plaque, but you’re at a low risk, while any score between 100 and 399 puts you at a moderate risk. If your score reaches above 400, it means you’re at significant risk for heart attack, and the calcified plaque levels in your arteries are dangerously high.
How Do You Know if a Calcium Scan is Right for You?
First and foremost, calcium scans provide the most benefits for patients that do not exhibit any symptoms of heart disease, but have a moderate or significant risk of heart disease based on things like their family history of heart disease. Healthy patients at a low risk of heart disease likely won’t have much (if any) plaque build-up in their arteries. That said, heart disease is known as a silent killer, which makes it all the more important to diagnose it early.
Not sure what your risk level is? Talk with your cardiologist to learn more about what your exact risk factor might be based on your medical history and health habits. Apart from some exceptions, it’s recommended that men wait until they are 35 years-old and women wait until they are 40 years-old before having a calcium scan, as younger patients are much less likely to have calcium build-up in their arteries.
Likewise, make sure you consult with your insurance company before asking for a coronary calcium scan, as most health plans will not pay for this test. That said, calcium score tests are only $25 here at HVI – the lowest price in the country – making them very accessible for anyone who isn’t covered.
Depending on the results and calcium score, your doctor may also recommend several important lifestyle changes to lower risk your risk of heart disease, such as more exercise, losing weight, eating healthier, and quitting smoking and drinking. They may also instruct you to start taking cholesterol and/or blood pressure medications, so it’s important to be prepared for these changes.
Think a coronary calcium scan is the test you need? Use the link above to set up an appointment for a $25 calcium score test here today. Remember, it’s never easy to predict when a heart attack is going to happen, but tests like these are one of the few instances where cardiologists have a chance. If you’re a man over 35 or woman or 40, make sure you ask your doctor about it during your next appointment.