CT Scan My Heart?

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What is this Heart Healthy CT? How many possible tests can there be for my heart? It is getting a bit confusing trying to navigate the different tests from ECGs (or is it EKG?), to echocardiograms and stress tests.

Well, the Cardiac CT or Calcium score can provide very helpful information, especially for women. This test takes about 5 minutes. They do a CT Scan (aka Cat Scan) of the heart. We can not see all of the blood vessels completely during this quick scan. However, the computer can calculate the amount of calcium that has built up in the arteries of the heart.

  • Calcium builds up over time to stabilize plaque or blockages. It is not related to the calcium that you eat or supplement.
  • If there is a lot of calcium, there is a lot of plaque. You are at high risk for heart attack.
  • If there is little or no calcium (a score of “0”), then you are at low risk for heart attack.

Why is this helpful in women?

  • The traditional risk calculators that we use to evaluate someone’s risk for heart disease are based upon studies done in men. Most women are calculated to be low risk.
  • This Heart Healthy CT can determine an individual’s actual risk.

I have many patients who have borderline blood pressure and cholesterol levels between the ages of 40-60. When should we start statin medications? How long can we try diet and exercise? How aggressive do we need to be NOW? The information from the Heart Healthy CT Scan is very helpful in making these decisions.

If you have reviewed your risk for heart disease and are still unsure, consider the scan. Talk to your physician if you have questions.