February 24, 2017 by John Fernandez
What’s a ‘Coronary Calcium Score’ and Who Should Get One?
Calcium usually has a good reputation as an important element in building strong, dense bones. But calcium is also a contributing factor in atherosclerosis, a hardening or narrowing of the arteries.
Physicians are increasingly relying on heart scans to detect cardiovascular disease in people with little or no symptoms, or those with few, if any, risk factors. Those scans can detect coronary calcium deposited as plaque in arterial walls, along with cholesterol and other substances in the process of atherosclerosis.
People already diagnosed with atherosclerosis usually undergo a coronary CT angiogram to give doctors a “coronary calcium score.” But people who don’t know if they have atherosclerosis can qualify for a simpler and quicker CT scan of the heart that provides the same score — without using contrast and with less radiation than a CT coronary angiogram.
(Watch Ricardo Cury, M.D., Director of Cardiac Imaging, Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, explain the benefits of coronary calcium score tests and who is a candidate for the test. Video by Steve Pipho.)
Hardening of the Arteries
Almost everyone with atherosclerosis, more commonly known as hardening of the arteries, has some calcium buildup, or plaque, that can contribute to potential heart attacks and strokes if left untreated.
“The entire test takes less than 15 minutes and the actual scan takes less than 10 seconds,” says Ricardo Cury, M.D., Director of Cardiac Imaging, Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “It allows physicians to detect coronary artery disease and quantify the amount of plaque buildup in the heart.”
A Score From ‘0 to More Than a 1,000’
A coronary calcium score ranges “from 0, which indicates no presence of calcified plaque, to over a 1,000, which indicates advanced calcified plaque buildup and advanced coronary artery disease,” says Dr. Cury.
Heart scans are a simple way of finding and treating heart disease before cardiovascular events occur, such as heart attacks and strokes.
“With early detection, you can be treating and modifying cardiac risk factors, such as taking medications, to slow or reverse the progression of heart disease,” says Dr. Cury.
Are You a Candidate
You are a candidate for cardiac calcium scoring if you are age 40-65 and have any of the following risk factors:
- Family history of heart disease
- High cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes
Special Pricing for Cardiac Calcium Scoring
February is American Heart Month, and Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute is helping you take charge of your heart health with a $25 cardiac calcium scoring test. This noninvasive CT scan of the heart looks for evidence of calcium deposits in the walls of your arteries, which can be a sign of coronary artery disease. It’s quick, easy, painless and accurate. Read more.