Little-Known Test Offers Big Heart Benefits
Ray Smith
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Little-Known Test Offers Big Heart Benefits

Most of us tend to think of calcium as a beneficial mineral that keeps our teeth and bones strong. And while that’s true, calcium also has the potential to be harmful when it shows up where it’s not needed.

Specifically, when calcium accumulates in your coronary arteries, it increases your risk of a heart attack. Called coronary artery calcification, these accumulations, or deposits, are an early sign of coronary artery disease.

The good news is there’s a non-invasive screening that can detect and measure calcium and plaque build-up in your arteries. Using this information, your doctor can determine what medication or lifestyle changes you need to reduce your risk of a heart attack or other heart problems.

Called a Coronary Calcium Scoring Scan, this quick, non-invasive exam is completed with a CT scanner and a heart monitor and takes less than 10 minutes. The resulting coronary artery calcium score reveals the extent of plaque build-up in your arteries and your risk of having a heart event in the future. With this information in hand, your doctor can set goals related to your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to minimize your risk.

Coronary Calcium Scoring is recommended for anyone with the following risk factors:

  • Age 40 or older at intermediate risk of heart disease
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Past or present smoker
  • History of high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Overweight
  • Inactive lifestyle

Because the CT scan component of a Coronary Calcium Scoring Scan involves a small amount of radiation, it is not recommended for instances where the results may not provide definitive insight into specific health decisions. This includes patients who:

  • have had a heart attack, stroke, stent, bypass, or other serious cardiovascular event
  • are pregnant or anyone who needs to avoid radiation

To learn if a Coronary Calcium Scoring Scan is right for you, contact your doctor. You may also wish to contact your insurance provider as this relatively new screening tool is not covered by all plans.


Melissa Spiezio, RT(R)(M), is the Director of SVMC Imaging Services at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.


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