Medically reviewed by Alan Blaker, MD McLeod Cardiology Associates
Despite all the advances in cardiac treatment, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in our country – and the world. Using the result of a chest CT scan, physicians can now measure the amount of calcification in the arteries, offering an early warning to many people who don’t yet have symptoms of heart disease.
“Using the results from the Calcium Artery Screening, we can encourage a patient to make lifestyle changes, such as quit smoking, start exercising and lose weight,” says McLeod Cardiologist Alan Blaker, MD. “We might also start the patient on statins to help lower cholesterol.”
Calcium scoring is usually referred for middle-aged patients with some heart risk factors. There is very little risk from the CT scan radiation. The exam doesn’t require any injection of contrast material and should not cause pain.
When Bill Clinton left the White House, he had a Calcium Artery Screening. His score was so high that he had bypass surgery within a year. Former President George W. Bush used information from a Calcium Artery Screening – along with lifestyle changes and statins – to delay a heart procedure by a decade.
Guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association suggest that reasonable candidates for Calcium Artery Screening are people with intermediate risks, such as a family history of premature heart problems. The recommendations also suggest this test for people over age 40 with diabetes but no symptoms of atherosclerosis, narrowing of the arteries from a buildup of fatty plaque.
OTHER CARDIOLOGISTS SAY…
It can establish the need for further therapy, helping prevent progression of heart disease, and is 95 percent sensitive for picking up the early pre-existing signs of heart disease.
No large-scale trials have been conducted to prove the long-term reduction of heart problems or to encourage blanket screening of individuals. However, various cardiologists have called it a “promising tool” and “a good way to get better information about my patients’ heart risk.”
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Talk with your primary care physician or a cardiologist about whether the Calcium Artery Screening might be appropriate for you.
Find a cardiologist near you.