Are You a Candidate for Cardiac Calcium Scoring?

Do you know what calcium has to do with your heart health?

While calcium is an essential building block for the body, calcium can also be used as a marker for identifying atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which is the leading cause of heart attacks, stroke, and peripheral artery disease, according to Curtis Hamburg, M.D., FACC,  a cardiologist with Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute and member of Baptist Health Quality Network.

Most calcium — 99 percent of the calcium in your body — is stored in your bones and teeth. This type of calcium, in combination with Vitamin D, is essential for proper bone mass and helps ward off osteoporosis.

But a small amount of calcium, however, is also found in other areas of the body, including arteries that have become involved in the arteriosclerotic process.

The role of calcium — as a marker or even a contributing factor in atherosclerosis — is increasingly coming to light as heart scans become more widely used to detect early heart disease in people with little or no symptoms or even risk factors.

Coronary calcium is a marker for plaque in the coronary arteries, and if you are middle-aged with at least two risk factors for heart disease, (including diabetes, smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol and a family history of early coronary), coronary calcium may indicate an increased risk of a future coronary event, Dr. Hamburg says.

Almost everyone with atherosclerosis has some calcium buildup, he says. Since atherosclerosis is the predominant cause of heart attacks and strokes, calcium buildup in your coronary or carotid arteries could be a warning of future cardiovascular events.

Here are a few things you should know:

What causes calcium to build up in the arteries?

What many people may not realize is that a healthy diet rich in calcium has no correlation with the bad calcium deposits. Other factors are at play when calcium is deposited as plaque in the arterial walls, along with cholesterol and other substances in the process of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.

More likely, people with hardening of the arteries lack a healthy diet and regular exercise, may have a family history of heart disease that surfaces early in life, or have risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or smoke tobacco.

When the innermost wall of an artery is damaged by risk factors, calcium, blood cells, fats and other cellular byproducts build up. That’s when the bad calcium, known to your cardiologist as “coronary calcium,” becomes measurable.

What is calcium scoring?

For people diagnosed with atherosclerosis, a coronary CT angiogram can give doctors a calcium score. But, for those who don’t know that they have atherosclerosis and have a family history of heart disease, a CT scan of the heart can give the same score without using contrast and with less radiation than a CT coronary angiogram.

That score can range from 0 to more than 400. A coronary calcium score of zero indicates a very low risk of a future heart attack, Dr. Hamburg says.  A score above 400 imparts a relatively high risk for having a future heart attack. People with a score between 100 and 400 have a moderate risk for a future heart attack.

A coronary calcium score allows your doctor to proceed with different intensities of treatment, depending on the score. It can give your physician an idea of your future risk of having a heart attack, and may help direct how aggressive treatment should be for any risk factors you may have.

Who is a candidate for calcium scoring?

You are a candidate for cardiac calcium scoring if you are age 40-65, and have any of the following risk factors:

  • Smoking.
  • Family history of heart disease.
  • Obesity.​
  • High cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Special Pricing on Calcium Scoring offered by Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute

February is American Heart Month and the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute is offering special pricing on calcium scoring scans.  For more information or to schedule an appointment in Miami-Dade or Broward, fill out the online form. You can also call 786-573-6000 in Miami-Dade, 954-837-1000 in Broward, or 305-434-1588 in Monroe.

The offer available is February 1-28, 2015; must schedule appointment before February 20. A doctor’s prescription and appointment are required.​ Those with chest pain, known heart disease, previous angioplasty or heart surgery are not good candidates for this test. Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute services are available at Baptist Health hospitals and facilities throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties.



Also read:

Calcium: The Good vs. the Bad

Don’t Put Off Regular Screenings

Know Your Family, Know Your Heart

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