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Know Your Calcium Score to Prevent a Heart Attack

Know Your Calcium Score to Prevent a Heart Attack

The shortest way to explain a calcium score is this: By knowing what yours is, you can determine your risk for heart events over the next several years.

Understanding how much calcium deposits are in your coronary arteries helps doctors figure out if you need to change your lifestyle or otherwise reduce your risk factors for cardiac events such as a heart attack or stroke. And if coronary artery disease is present, your results can help monitor its progression.

What Is a Calcium Score?

A calcium score helps you discover two important aspects of your heart health: 1) your prognosis and 2) what treatment options are available.

Finding out your calcium score helps determine your degree of coronary disease as well as what your risk of a heart attack may be. And when more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack each year — with nearly 600,000 dying from some form of heart disease annually — it is great information to have on hand.

Normally, the arteries in your heart do not have calcium in them. As they develop cholesterol plaque buildup, calcium deposits in these lesions can be seen on special computed tomography (or CT)  scans. Over time, most cholesterol plaque buildup does become calcified (or hardened), which can restrict your blood flow. Qualified physicians are able to view those areas by using CT scanning software.

The degree of coronary artery calcification a person has directly correlates with how much blockage is in their heart arteries. A stress test can determine if the blockage is so significant that it restricts your blood flow and if it needs to be mechanically opened with balloons, stents or bypass surgery.

What Does a Calcium Score Do?

Calcium scores help you figure out just how high your personal risks actually are and may allow you to keep future cardiac events at bay. Patients who have had heart attacks or coronary artery disease need medical attention to combat their risk factors, including aggressive cholesterol therapy with statins and generic aspirin for prophylaxis. If you have never had or experienced coronary artery disease, a calcium score can determine if that kind of attention is necessary.

Treatment of hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia are usually more aggressive in patients with elevated calcium scores. 

Prevention Is Key

Recent studies suggest that patients with low cardiac risk who rely solely on generic aspirin may pose more risks to themselves than benefits. Knowing your calcium score, however, can help you better assess whether or not long-term generic aspirin therapy will actually decrease your possibility of a heart attack or stroke.

A low score is preferred. A patient with a calcium score of zero may be able to avoid medical therapy for elevated cholesterol by focusing on diet, exercise and weight loss without increased risk. On the other hand, a patient with a very elevated calcium score could benefit from early and aggressive pharmacological therapy.

If you are between the ages of 40 and 70 and have had even one cardiac event or any indication of heart disease, finding out your calcium score could be an excellent idea, even if you haven’t had any recognizable symptoms. Contact a health specialist to learn more.

Choose State of the Heart Care

A heart-centered life means living for what’s important to you. But are you taking care of what makes it all possible – your heart that beats over 3,000 times per hour? At the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute, we’re here to help you keep the beat strong.

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