October 16, 2020 by Mark Coticchia
Coronary Calcium Scores: Determining Your Risk to Start Preventive Therapy
A heart scan, also known as a “coronary calcium scan” or “cardiac CT for calcium scoring,” is a non-invasive test that helps doctors detect a person’s risk of heart disease or a cardiac event, such as a heart attack or stroke, over the next five to 10 years.
And now the test’s result, called a cardiac calcium score, is helping guide physicians in treating coronary heart disease, thanks to new guidelines issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology (ACC).
You are a candidate for a cardiac calcium scoring if you are 40- to 65-years-old and have any of the following risk factors:
- Family history of heart disease
- High cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes
Those with chest pain, known heart disease, previous angioplasty/stent or heart surgery are not good candidates and do not qualify for this test. Because your calcium score can increase over time, screenings should be repeated every three to five years, as recommended by your doctor.
“This is the first time physicians have guidelines to support medical management of patients at risk of coronary heart disease,” said Ricardo Cury, M.D., director of cardiac imaging at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “While advanced CT technology allows doctors to visualize any plaque buildup in patient’s arteries, the calcium score can indicate to the physician that he or she may want to initiate preventive therapy.”
(Watch Now: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Ricardo Cury, M.D., director of cardiac imaging, and Elliott Elias, M.D., interventional echocardiography, at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, about the coronary calcium test and scoring. Video by Alcyene Almeida Rodrigues)
The higher calcium score a patient has, the more aggressive the treatment will be, Dr. Cury explains. “This allows us to optimize medications, such as statin dose, for preventing plaque buildup.”
Coronary calcium scoring involves undergoing a noninvasive CT scan that measures any calcium buildup in the walls of the heart’s blood vessels. Primary treatment for coronary artery disease is to prescribe a medication, called a statin, that helps the body maintain healthy levels of cholesterol.
How Calcium Scoring Helps Patients
Doctors are already seeing how the new guidelines for a coronary calcium scan are benefiting patients.
“We’re seeing several patients come through our office who are benefiting from knowing their cardiac calcium score,” said Elliott Elias, M.D., a cardiologist with a focus on interventional echocardiography at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “It’s helping us develop very targeted therapy for people who may otherwise had no idea of their risk. We can know immediately if we have to put a person on statin or not.”
$49 Special for a Cardiac Calcium Test
Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute is offering a $49 special for a cardiac calcium test ― a 30-minute, noninvasive CT scan that measures calcium buildup in the artery walls. The test is available at Baptist Health diagnostic imaging locations in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. Appointments must be scheduled by February 15. Patients must be 40 to 65 years old. Those with chest pain, known heart disease, previous angioplasty/stent or heart surgery are not good candidates and do not qualify for this test. A doctor’s prescription and appointment are required. For more information or to request an appointment in Miami-Dade, Broward or Monroe, call 786-573-6000, email Screenings@BaptistHealth.net or visit BaptistHealth.net/HeartScreening. In Palm Beach, call 561-374-5700 or visit BethesdaWeb.com/HeartScreening.