Cardiac Calcium Scoring Information
February 7, 2018

Coronary artery disease (or CAD) is the most common cause of death worldwide. It affects more than 110 million people around the world and is responsible for more than 8.9 million deaths. However, knowing your risk of CAD can greatly help you to avoid it, and cardiac calcium scoring is one way to do that.

Cardiac calcium scoring uses a CT scan to check the coronary arteries for plaque buildup. Because plaque buildup in the coronary arteries can be an indicator of atherosclerosis or CAD, it is an extremely helpful tool to help patients understand and mitigate their risks. This is especially beneficial for those who may be at risk for CAD including those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of the disease.

Lifestyle factors can also contribute to your risk of developing CAD. Smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, excessive alcohol, and depression can be risk factors as well. In fact, smoking is responsible for 36% of CAD cases and obesity is associated with 20% of CAD cases. That means there are plenty of things you can do now to lessen your risk of developing CAD later. And one of those things is cardiac calcium scoring.

What Is Cardiac Calcium Scoring?

Cardiac calcium scoring is the process of using a CT scanner to identify calcified plaque in the coronary arteries. When fats and other substances begin to line the inner layer of the arteries, they can eventually become calcified. This is one of the main indicators of CAD, and it could mean an increased risk of heart attack. Cardiac calcium scoring allows us to see whether or not this calcified plaque is present, and if so, to view the extent of it.

The result of this procedure is a “calcium score”—a number from zero to more than 400 that indicates your current level of CAD. A score of zero means there is no evidence of CAD and your odds of having a heart attack in the next 2-5 years is negligible. A score between 1-100 shows minimal to mild evidence of CAD. A score between 101-400 shows moderate evidence of CAD. And a score of 400 or above means there is extensive evidence of CAD.

Depending on your results, your doctor may wish to prescribe preventative medicine as well as lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of developing a heart attack. Follow-up appointments may be scheduled to monitor changes over time as well as to track your progress.

Should I Get Cardiac Calcium Scoring?

If you are at risk for atherosclerosis or CAD, speak with your physician about a referral.