What’s Your REAL Risk of Having a Heart Attack?
January 11, 2023

A Cardiac Calcium Scoring (CCS) Test Can Tell You.

If you could know your likelihood of having a heart attack in the next ten years, wouldn’t you want to know?

The standard ways of assessing risk—looking at blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and smoking history—doesn’t always tell the complete story. A Cardiac Calcium Scoring (CCS) test is a quick, painless diagnostic exam proven to help measure your actual risk of heart attack, even before you have symptoms.

What is a CCS test?

Matthew Bentz, M.D., a diagnostic radiologist with Central Oregon Radiology describes it as, “A special type of rapid x-ray CT scan of the heart. It makes detailed pictures of the heart that allow doctors to look at the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle.” CCS testing is relatively new and not yet part of standard guidelines, which is why you may not have heard about it. The concrete results it provides are a game changer for preventing heart attacks.

WHAT DOES A CARDIAC CALCIUM SCAN MEASURE?

Dr. Bentz states, “Coronary artery calcium is a mix of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other things. It doesn’t have a strong relationship to the amount of calcium in your blood or bones, but it does have a strong relationship with your risk of a future heart attack”. A CCS test is a special computed tomography (CT) scan that measures plaque buildup (also called atherosclerosis) along your heart. The more plaque that accumulates along the walls of your arteries, the more narrowed your arteries become. Eventually the plaque can break off, causing a blood clot and possibly a heart attack.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING A CARDIAC CALCIUM SCAN?

Cardiac calcium scoring is quick, painless, and non-invasive. Leads are placed on your chest, and the CT machine takes images in coordination with your heartbeat. From start to finish, the test itself takes about 5–10 minutes. A radiologist will then evaluate your results and assign you a “calcium score” that tells your doctor how much plaque buildup is present. Zero means you’re unlikely to have a heart attack in the next 10–15 years. Over 400 means action is needed—now—to prevent one. Many patients and their doctors are surprised to find their results weren’t what they expected based solely on risk factors.