A CT Scan test is used to find calcium buildup in arteries-a sign of heart disease.

Many patients diagnosed with heart disease or those who come to a hospital with a cardiac emergency have no symptoms or a previous diagnoses.

A heart attack is caused by arterial blockage that prevents blood and oxygen from reaching the heart. Blockage is usually due to atherosclerosis — a scarring of the blood vessels due to inflammation and damage caused by high blood pressure, smoking, bad cholesterol, diabetes or genetic/family history factors.

If those risk factors are not addressed, they can lead to repeated scarring and narrowing of the arteries which leads to calcium deposits in the atherosclerotic scar.

X-rays cannot penetrate the calcium deposits which is why CT scans are used in the test.

Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) screening uses CT scans to see if arteries are blocked. It’s not a new test, but it is increasingly being recognized as an important tool in defining which patients have more advanced atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and are at the highest risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

In April, the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association issued updated guidelines recommending CAC testing to those with borderline or intermediate risk of ASCVD — as determined by an ASCVD risk factor tool.

These tools use various atherosclerotic risk factors to calculate the likelihood that an individual will have a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. It is a probability, not a certainty. Low risk is less than 5%; borderline is 5% to 7.5%; intermediate is 7.5% to 20% and high risk is greater than 20%.

A CAC screening is simple to do. It takes about 10 minutes and uses about 1 to 1.5 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation.

A “calcium score” of 1 to 10 indicates minimal evidence of coronary artery disease; 11 to 100 mild evidence; 101 to 400 moderate evidence and over 400 suggests extensive coronary artery disease.

Source: Next Avenue

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