Hedging Your Bets with a Coronary Artery Calcium Test

When it comes to the health of your heart, at Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates, we often believe the best offense is a pro-active defense. By that we mean we look to diagnose problems before they become full cardiovascular events.

One of the tools we use is the coronary artery calcium test, also known as a coronary calcium scan.

What is a coronary artery calcium test?

A coronary artery calcium test is a CT scan of your heart used to measure how much calcium build-up you have along the walls of the arteries in your heart. This calcium usually builds up in the cholesterol plaque that attaches and builds along the artery walls. Measuring calcified plaque with these coronary calcium scans allows us to predict and treat coronary artery disease before you’re experiencing any symptoms or signs.

How does a coronary artery calcium test work?

At Hunterdon Cardiovascular, we use multislice computerized tomography (CT) scans for these tests. CT scans use specialized X-ray technology to create multiple images of plaque deposits in the patient’s blood vessels. This can give us a hint as to a patient’s possibility of a future cardiovascular event.

Plaque is made up of fats, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in your blood. It builds over time before showing any signs or symptoms. These deposits in the coronary arteries can restrict the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles of the heart. Plaque may also burst, triggering a blood clot that can lead to a heart attack.

What is a calcium score?

The amount of calcium we see in your coronary artery calcium test is ranked in what’s called a “calcium score.” Your score is compared to the scores of men and women of similar ages. High calcium scores usually predict future heart attack risks in women and men.

We use these test in patients with moderate to higher levels of risk for heart attack. This test can guide our treatment and the patient’s own future behaviors. After all, having a higher calcium score is a message to the patient that he or she needs to make some changes in their lifestyle to prevent a future heart attack.

The coronary artery calcium test is just one tool we use at Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates to keep our patients’ hearts healthy and fully functioning. Call us at (908) 788-1710 to schedule an appointment.

Posted in: Coronary Artery Calcium Test

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