Typically, CT scans are used to diagnosis an illness or injury. But did you know that they can also be used as part of a preventative heart health plan? CT scans are used to provide your physician with information regarding your cardiac health by detecting the presence of calcium within your arteries. The levels found in a “heart scan” are presented as a cardiac or calcium score.
Why Do I Need to Know My Cardiac Score?
A person’s cardiac score is a key indicator of whether or not they are at risk for heart disease, which includes blocked arteries, or plaque deposits that can weaken the arterial walls.
Coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. In a healthy cardiac system, calcium is not present. Calcium is found in the plaque that may form on the artery walls. This plaque begins to narrow or weaken the artery passages as it increases, restricting the flow of blood to the heart, and making that artery vulnerable for rupture. The presence of calcium in the arteries is a significant marker for coronary artery disease or CAD.
The scoring for the test is based on the Agatston score, and is calculated by using the area and density of the calcium found via the radiology images.
Amount of Plaque as a Cardiac Score:
- 0 = no plaque present
- 1-10 = 10% chance of developing heart disease
- 11-100 = some presence of plaque. Qualifies as patient having heart disease and heart attack risk is moderate.
- 101-400 = Plaque is present and likely blocking arteries. Moderate to severe risk of having a heart attack.
- >400 = Heart attack risk is high and a large amount of plaque is present. 90% chance that plaque is blocking an artery.
Who Should Get a Cardiac Scoring CT?
People who are considered to be at risk for CAD should consider being tested. The test can be used as a tool (along with other tests and your medical history) by your doctor to determine a plan of care that is best for you.
- family history of cardiac disease
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol levels
- personal history of smoking
- males over 45 and females over 55
One of the great things about cardiac score testing is that it is a non-invasive procedure. There are no needles or special preparations that you need to take in order to have the test done.The test itself takes less than 10 minutes, and you will be ready to leave within 30 minutes.You may be asked to avoid caffeine and nicotine in the hours prior to the test.The cardiac score is a useful tool for your physician to determine your future risk for developing coronary artery disease as well as heart attack and stroke risks.