You routinely have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked, which can be very strong indicators of your risks for heart disease. A newer test, however, is providing us with a much clearer picture of a patient’s arterial health, allowing us to take the appropriate steps to ward off heart disease.
Called calcium score screening, Farhad Aduli, MD, FACC, and the team here at Louisiana Heart and Vascular, rely on this simple diagnostic tool to screen for coronary artery disease, which is the most common form of heart disease in the United States.
To give you an idea about the value of calcium score screening, here’s a closer look at why this type of screening is important and how it provides valuable information about your cardiovascular health.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly 1 in 4 deaths. Breaking this down into more specific numbers, 655,000 people succumb to heart disease each year, and coronary artery disease (CAD) represents more than half of this number (nearly 366,000 deaths).
While these numbers may paint a frightening picture, there is some cause for optimism in another eye-opening statistic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 200,000 annual deaths from heart disease and stroke are preventable.
While we can’t always prevent heart disease, knowing your risks and taking the necessary steps to offset them is your first, and most important, line of defense, which is where calcium score screening comes in.
Understanding your risks for heart disease is extremely important, and there are many ways we accomplish this. During your cardiology consultation, we spend ample time reviewing your medical history, your family history, and certain lifestyle considerations. Some of the more common risk factors we look for are:
If you meet one or more of these criteria, you may be at a greater risk for developing CAD, which makes you a potential candidate for calcium score screening.
To better understand what calcium score screening can reveal, let’s first quickly review what happens to your arteries when you develop CAD.
In the simplest of terms, CAD describes a condition in which plaque builds up in your arteries, hampering your circulation. The plaque is often made up of white blood cells, cholesterol, and calcium, which line the interior walls of your arteries, causing them to gradually narrow, a condition we call atherosclerosis.
CAD is progressive and, more often than not, there are no signs of the disease in the early stages. In fact, CAD is often only found after a major event, such as a heart attack.
The goal of calcium score screening is to identify areas in your arteries where plaque is beginning to accumulate.
The screening itself is fairly easy. We use a CT scan, which is noninvasive, to capture images of your blood vessels during your heartbeats.
Sophisticated computer software then analyzes the images to detect the presence of calcification in your arteries. The software then provides a score that tells us if you might have CAD and to what extent.
At best, we may find no evidence of a problem. If we do detect calcification, we can formulate a treatment plan to improve the function of these blood vessels before the unthinkable happens.
If you have more questions about calcium score screening or you’d like to find out whether you’re a candidate, book an appointment online or over the phone with Louisiana Heart and Vascular today. We serve patients from all over, including Covington, Mandeville, and Slidell, Louisiana.