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Cardiac Scoring

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Next Steps

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Know Your Risk Factors

The following factors may increase your risk for heart disease and, ultimately, a heart attack:

  • You are male and over 45 years old
  • You are female and over 55 years old, or you have passed menopause or had your ovaries removed and are not taking estrogen
  • Your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55 or your mother or sister had one before the age of 65
  • You smoke or you live/work with someone who smokes daily
  • You have cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL or higher
  • You’ve been told your blood pressure is high
  • You do not exercise on a regular basis for at least 30 minutes
  • You’re 20 pounds or more overweight
  • You have diabetes or you need medicine to control your blood sugar

If two or more of the above factors apply, you may be at risk for heart disease, and CACS may be a good next step to assess your risk more completely.

Calcification in the coronary arteries is the earliest indicator of heart disease. CACS uses noninvasive, high-speed computerized tomography (CT) to scan your heart and detect calcium deposits along the walls of arteries. The test then produces a calcium score that identifies your level of deposits. Taking into account other factors such as age, family history and cholesterol level, your doctor uses that score to measure your potential for heart disease.

CT Images of a healthy artery (left) and a clogged artery (right)

     

Your Calcium Scoring Exam

  • You will be lying comfortably on the exam table for about five minutes, though the scan takes only seconds
  • There is no need to change your clothes, but all jewelry and metal items must be removed
  • Electrocardiogram leads will be placed on your chest to synchronize the scan with your heart beats
  • You will be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds during the scan
  • There is no special preparation for the exam; no fasting, no injections, no ceasing of medications

Gaining Peace of Mind, Just in Time

The results of your exam represent peace of mind, since early detection is key to prevention. Considering over half the people who died suddenly of heart disease had no symptoms, what you know today can help you live a healthier tomorrow.

The Next Step

Should your score indicate a risk for heart disease, your doctor can recommend drug therapies or lifestyle modifications to help slow the progression of the disease.