Cardiac Care

Cardiac Scoring (Heart Scan)

Coronary Artery Disease
Heart disease is the common name for “coronary artery disease” (CAD). This condition is the end result of a progressive hardening of the arteries, a process in which arteries become clogged and prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart. Over time, deposits of cholesterol and other substances build up along vessel walls and become calcified. Blood flow slows until a blood clot forms, completely sealing off the passage of blood to the heart. At that point, a heart attack occurs.

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring
Coronary artery calcium scoring (CACS) is one of the most advanced methods available to detect heart disease in its earliest stages. And, there’s no better time than now to prevent heart disease, because statistics like these continue to remind us of its tragic effects:

  • Every 29 seconds an American suffers a heart attack
  • Every minute an American dies from a heart attack
  • 50 percent of men and 63 percent of women who die suddenly of heart disease have no previous symptoms
  • About 80 percent of the people under 65 who died of heart disease did so during their first attack

>> Learn more about Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring

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.