You presumably know your height, weight, and blood pressure. Another number may be more critical for measuring heart attack and stroke risk. Coronary plaque, the leading cause of atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases (ASCVD) events such as heart attacks and strokes, is measured by the coronary artery calcium (CAC) score.
Your ct calcium score ranges from zero to infinity and predicts your risk of such an incident up to 15 years. Even with risk factors, including diabetes, obesity, or advanced age, people without coronary artery calcium have the lowest absolute risk of ASCVD events. High CAC scores increase the risk of ASCVD, even in healthy adults who have never had heart disease. A safe, non-invasive, affordable calcium test may be the most accurate ASCVD biomarker. This test, whether you need one, and what the results may signify are explained here.
Isn’t Calcium Good?
Calcium in meals and bones is good. Calcium in arteries, no. CAC measures coronary artery plaque, a waxy material that doesn’t appear in CT scans. Since plaque is made of fat and calcium, the calcium accumulates inside the artery over time. CT scans can identify calcification in the innermost layer of the street, just like X-rays can see bones through the skin. Plaque can clog your arteries, slowing blood flow and depriving your heart of oxygen. Plaque buildup can cause blood clots and heart attacks. Your calcium score can forecast your risk of a heart attack or stroke since it indirectly measures plaque in the coronary arteries.
Why Is This Test Necessary?
Risk is estimated using demographics, family history, health issues, lifestyle, and blood tests. It doesn’t accurately anticipate hardened plaque and doesn’t assess plaque in your arteries. CAC testing in various risk groups yields startling results. 15% of low-risk persons have high calcified plaque and are at higher risk of an incident than expected. 30%–50% of high-risk patients have no plaque (CAC score of zero) and are at low risk for events.
The test is advised for intermediate-risk individuals who want a more detailed risk assessment to guide therapy and drug decisions. One cardiovascular risk factor, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity, indicates intermediate risk. Recent scientific society guidelines suggest that low-risk individuals with a significant family history of ASCVD, especially early-onset occurrences, should consider undergoing the test for risk assessment.
Who Should Avoid The Test?
CT scanning is not suggested for persons who are unlikely to use the information to make health decisions, such as:
- Because young people are unlikely to collect coronary artery calcium, they are not recommended.
- People with a heart attack, stroke, or major cardiovascular event are high risk and require comprehensive management.
- Radiation-sensitive individuals.
- People who have recently had a CAC test might repeat it in three to five years if the initial score was zero and management is unsure.
Talk to your provider if you fall outside the suggested category but think the results could be helpful.
Calcium Score Testing: How?
Your PCP or preventive cardiologist will order it. Review your health data, risk factors, and preventive medications with your doctor at your yearly physical or frequent check-ups. Computers and cardiovascular radiologists analyze the images. Calcification is present if the scan shows calcium specks in artery walls. The computer algorithm will calculate a score that estimates coronary artery plaque and disease.
Your doctor will explain the results. Generally, the scoring ranges are:
Zero calcified plaque. Your group has the lowest ASCVD event risk. For example, if you are a 45-year-old female with diabetes, your risk is not zero because diabetes is a risk factor, but it is the lowest. Plaque is minimal. ASCVD has begun despite your minimal heart attack risk. Lifestyle adjustments may be explored to minimize risk.
11-100: Coronary plaque and a moderate heart attack risk. Your doctor may suggest lifestyle modifications and therapies.
101–400: Moderate to severe heart attack risk. Your doctor may recommend statins and lifestyle adjustments to lower cholesterol.
Over 400: Your plaque is high, increasing your risk of ASCVD. To lower your risk of ASCVD, your doctor may recommend statins and intense healthy lifestyle adjustments.