The 15-Minute Scan That Assesses Your Risk for Heart Disease
Heart disease is the top killer among men and women, and a low-cost 15-minute coronary calcium scan can provide quick, easy-to-understand results that can help determine yours or a loved one’s risk for having a heart attack.
The coronary calcium scan is a non-invasive imaging test that, beyond typical risk factors like cholesterol and family history, many cardiologists view as one of the best available tests for measuring cardiac risk.
Quick, Painless, Effective
Coronary calcium scans aren’t necessarily well known among my patients as a predictor for measuring cardiac risk. Quite simply, a coronary calcium scan measures the amount of calcification in your arteries. When cholesterol and fat build up in your arteries, you’re at an increased risk for a heart attack. Where there’s more cholesterol, there’s more calcium; and this scan helps us visualize exactly how much calcium is currently in your arteries.
The scan is one of the easiest tests you can undergo. We tape electrodes to your chest, place you in an imaging machine (much like an MRI machine) and have you hold your breath for a few seconds while pictures are taken. After 10-15 minutes total, you’re out the door and receive your results within 48 hours.
Helping You Make the Right Changes
Every patient receives a coronary calcium score and percentile based on age and sex – the higher the score, the higher the risk. After we receive the score, I’ll go through the easy-to-follow tables and pictures of the heart arteries with each patient to determine any next steps.
Patients with higher coronary calcium scores are often nervous about being at increased risk for a heart attack. While a higher score does mean increased risk, we can work together to make sure that increased risk doesn’t turn into a heart attack. Lifestyle changes like proper diet, exercise, weight reduction, smoking cessation and control of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars are all a great place to start. Depending on each patient’s case, I may also recommend medications like aspirin and statins.
Preventing heart disease is the same at any age, and keeping your body healthy does wonders for your heart. This includes getting 30 minutes of exercise (even walking), not smoking, limiting your alcohol intake and avoiding a diet in high saturated fat/trans fat.
Stay Proactive About Your Heart Health
The cliché rings true – a picture is really worth a thousand words. Whether a motivating factor for those with higher scores or a visual reassurance of a healthy lifestyle for those with lower scores, a coronary calcium scan is a great way for patients to see their risk for heart disease.
People who haven’t had coronary artery disease (i.e. stents, bypass surgery, etc.) are prime candidates for a coronary calcium scan. Those with strong family histories of cardiac disease, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension or smoking are also great candidates, as are men over the age of 45 and women over 55.
This test only costs $79 and is available throughout the Denver-metro area at The Medical Center of Aurora, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, Sky Ridge Medical Center and Centennial Medical Plaza. You will need a physician order for your calcium scan from your primary care physician or a physician at Aurora Denver Cardiology Associates (ADCA).
You know your body better than anyone else, and if you’re concerned about your risk for heart disease, taking 15 minutes to find out may end up being worth years of your life.
Information discussed with Sundeep Viswanathan, M.D., FACC of Aurora Denver Cardiology Associates. Dr. Viswanathan is board certified in echocardiography, nuclear cardiology, cardiac CT, vascular ultrasound, and internal medicine. In addition to publishing numerous book chapters, papers and abstracts, he completed his cardiology fellowship at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a large-volume tertiary hospital ranked in the top 10 nationally for cardiac care. In his free time, Dr. Viswanathan enjoys travelling, hiking, camping and running.