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.

Talking Points

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.