GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A heart scan — also known as a Coronary Calcium Score — is a test that could help your doctor identify potential problems with your heart before you start showing symptoms.
Dr. Michael Shapiro, a cardiologist at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and professor of cardiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, explains what it is and how it can help.
What is a heart scan?
- A heart scan, also known as a coronary calcium score, is a CAT scan that does not require dye and provides pictures of the heart arteries
- Can allow the detection and measurement of calcium-containing plaque in arteries
- Plaque inside the arteries of the heart can grow and cause heart attack
- Allows physician to potentially identify coronary artery disease before signs and symptoms present
Who should consider getting a calcium-score screening?
- Individuals between ages 40-75 who are at an increased risk for heart disease but don’t have symptoms:
- Family history of heart disease
- Past or present smoker
- History of high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- Overweight, inactive lifestyle
- Other non-traditional risk factors
- Less than 40 years old and have family history of high cholesterol, could consider a calcium scan.
What does the score mean?
- When calcium is present, the higher the score, the more cholesterol plaque that is present, and the higher the risk of heart disease.
- A score of zero = no calcium is seen in the heart; suggests a low chance of developing a heart attack over the next three to five years
- 1-99 mild cholesterol plaque build-up
- A score of 100 to 299 = moderate cholesterol plaque buildup
- A score greater than 300 = extensive cholesterol plaque build-up
- Depending on the score, the provider will work with you on a health and treatment plan
- The result of a heart scan shouldn’t be used as a single predictor of overall health and risk of heart disease – other risk factor measurements should be considered
Can anyone schedule a heart scan?
Your provider has to order test, and they are not currently covered under most insurance policies.