CT Heart Scans
Cardiovascular disease: two words that strike fear in the hearts of most Americans, and with good reason—it is the number-one killer in the U.S., thanks to poor eating habits, high stress levels and lack of exercise. But there’s a diagnostic tool that can give you the heads-up before serious damage is done, and it’s called a CT Heart Scan.
The CT Heart Scan is a coronary artery disease risk assessment test that identifies the presence or absence of calcium in the coronary arteries, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). And while the test is a useful tool, it cannot substitute for a careful examination by a physician, who is best able to make definitive therapeutic decisions based upon careful history, physical examination and other testing if necessary.
CVD is usually caused by atherosclerosis, the hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which in turn is caused by the slow buildup of plaque inside the walls of the arteries. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood. As the buildup grows, it narrows the inside of the artery and in time may restrict blood flow.
There are two kinds of plaque: hard and stable, or soft and unstable. The hard, calcified variety causes artery walls to thicken and harden. Soft plaque is more likely to break apart from the walls and enter bloodstream, sometimes causing a blood clot that can block blood flow, starving organs of blood and oxygen. The organ’s cells then either die or suffer severe damage.
Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that can start in childhood. It can affect the arteries of the brain, heart, kidneys, and arms and legs. As plaque builds up, it can cause serious diseases and complications, including:
l Coronary artery disease
l Angina (chest pain)
l Heart attack
l Sudden death
l Cerebrovascular disease
l Transient ischemic attack (TIA) or “mini strokes”
l Peripheral arterial disease (circulatory system)
The CT Heart Scan can identify the presence of calcium, or hard plaque, which has a proven relationship with the presence of soft plaque, the real threat that causes heart attacks and strokes. The CT Heart Scan provides a Coronary Artery Calcification Score (CAC), and the higher the CAC score, the higher the possibility of the presence of soft plaque. This in turn indicates a higher risk of a future heart attack or stroke. The CAC score system generally ranges from 0-400.I realized how importan information is his after my husband had a heart attack. . You can go to St Marks Hospital and get a scan of your heart no matter what age for $70.00 -- good idea to do this
Should you have this test? Talk to your doctor if you have one or more of the following risk factors:
l Males age 30 and over (prevalence of cardiovascular disease is over 10% in this age/gender group and increases with age)
l Females over 35 (prevalence of cardiovascular disease is over 10 percent in this age/gender group and increases with age)
l Family History of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease.
l Individuals with Cardiac Risk Factors such as a history of:
l High Blood Pressure
l Abnormal Blood levels: Elevated Total Cholesterol (greater than 200 mg/dL) , low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL) , high LDL cholesterol (greater than 130 mg/dL), high C-reactive protein, high Homocysteine and/or high Fibrinogen
l Smoking history or active smoker
l Diabetes or glucose intolerance
l High Homocysteine levels