According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Thousands of Americans are affected every day, but there are ways to catch the signs early and reduce your risk.
The best way to lower your chances of developing heart disease is to live a heart-healthy life, but if you believe you may be at risk, talk to your doctor about scheduling a checkup.
According to Dr. Moneal Shah, a cardiologist at Allegheny General Hospital, you may be recommended for a coronary calcium scan if you have any of the following risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history of heart disease
- History of smoking
“Since this is a diagnostic test to help determine possible coronary artery disease, it would likely not be recommended for individuals who are already being treated for coronary artery disease,” Dr. Shah said.
A coronary calcium scan, also known as a heart scan, uses specialized X-ray technology called multidetector row or multislice computerized tomography (CT), which allows your doctor to detect and measure calcified plaque buildup in arteries.
“The procedure is noninvasive,” Dr. Shah said. “It uses X-ray technology, which exposes you to some radiation, the same amount you’d naturally be exposed to in a year.”
Plaque buildup in coronary arteries restricts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, which can lead to inflammation in and damage to the arteries. This can then lead to a blood clot or heart attack.
Once your doctor has completed the heart scan, he or she will be able to identify your risk of heart disease and begin developing a treatment plan before you display symptoms.
Typically, this will entail changing your lifestyle to be more heart-healthy. Eating healthier, quitting smoking, being physically active, and reducing stress are a few ways to do so.
“Individuals who would like to learn more about this scan and if it is right for them should speak with their physician,” Dr. Shah recommended.
For more information about heart disease and ways to live a heart-healthy life, visit the American Heart Association website.