Knowing your score could SAVE YOUR LIFE!
What is a coronary artery calcium (CAC) screening?
The cardiac coronary artery calcium (CAC) screening is a quick, convenient, and non-invasive imaging test done with computed tomography (CT scan). It is used to evaluate the amount of calcified (hard) plaque or buildup that may be present in the arteries of your heart. This is important because coronary plaque is the main underlying cause of adverse heart events such as heart attack and stroke. These tests can detect coronary artery disease often before any symptoms or warning signs occur.
Cardiac calcium scoring can:
- Identify if you have coronary artery disease. (CAD)
- Determine the severity of the heart disease.
- Help predict if symptoms will develop.
- Help determine risk of a future adverse heart event like heart attack or stroke.
How does the procedure work?
During this quick and painless test, you will be asked to lay flat on your back. Electrodes (sticky discs) will be placed on your chest to acquire your heart rate. You will then move in and out of our CT scanner 3-4 times. The scanner looks like a large donut and is open on each side. The scanner rotates around your body while a powerful computer creates detailed images of your heart. The test takes less than 15 minutes and results in a cardiac calcium score that helps your doctor estimate your risk of heart attack or stroke.
How should I prepare?
You will be asked to avoid caffeine, smoking, or any other stimulants at least 4 hours prior to your screening. However, you should continue to take your usual medications.
Wear comfortable, metal free, and loose-fitting clothing to your exam.
Metal objects, such as jewelry, will need to be removed.
Women will need to remove bras containing metal underwire or clips in the back. Women may wear a metal free sports bra for comfort.
Men are asked to shave their chest if they have hair as this can interfere with the electrodes adhering to the skin.
What Do the Results Mean?
After your images are interpreted by one of our board-certified radiologists, they are given what is called an Agatston score. Zero means the test didn’t find any calcium. Patients with higher scores have a greater risk for a heart attack, heart disease or stroke. Knowing your score can help your doctor create a plan and goals that will minimize your risk as much as possible.
Keep in mind that a high score doesn’t mean you’re sure to have a heart attack, but it does signal you may need to make some heart-healthy changes to your lifestyle or consider starting a new medication.
Who should get a CAC screening?
A CAC screening is the most accurate predictor of ASCVD risk to date. You should consider a CAC screening if you are between ages 40-70 and at increased risk for heart disease but do not have symptoms. People at increased risk include those with the following traits:
- high cholesterol levels
- family history of heart attack or stroke
- high blood pressure
- smoking or history of smoking
- overweight or obese
- physical inactivity