Written by: Dr. Steve Windley, MDTEST TAKING
Evaluating your risk for heart disease.
Heart disease continues its reign as our nation’s number one killer, hurting quality of life andcreating a huge financial burden. Like so many other chronic illnesses, prevention shouldalways be the goal. The calcium heart score, or heart scan, is now being offered as an option tohelp assess a person’s risk. This test, a type of x-ray, may allow doctors and patients anoninvasive view of heart disease issues.Prevention should be a top priority in health care. Often, diagnosis and treatment of manydiseases, including heart disease, comes after the illness is much more difficult to treat.Prevention of heart disease becomes even more of a priority since one of the most frequentsymptoms of a heart attack is sudden death. Cholesterol treatment is now a prominent part ofthe heart disease treatment program, but it is certainly not the only part. There are people whosuffer a heart attack with normal cholesterol levels. Many people are worried about talking totheir doctor about their risk since this can lead to big tests like a stress test or a heartcatheterization. There is a great need for a noninvasive assessment of heart disease risk. Manycenters are using CT scans to compute a score for the amount of calcium measured in thearteries. This is commonly called a calcium heart score or heart scan. These tests aresuggested to be a relatively simple way to obtain another heart disease risk factor to helpoutline how aggressive a treatment plan needs to be.At this point, several studies have been done to confirm that heart scans do provide usefulinformation to the doctor and patient [1,2,3]. The heart score can be used as a helpful guide tohelp predict heart disease . The heart score is essentially a CT scan of the heart and its bloodvessels. The calcium that has been deposited into the arteries is measured and a score isdetermined based on the amount of calcium present. Heart disease is the only known cause ofcalcium deposits in the arteries . A comparison percentile for males and females is madeusing age to help determine the risk of heart disease. A game plan for the heart can then bedetermined based on the score. Scores of zero are extremely low risk for heart disease. Scoresof 10-100 and less than 75 percent for age are considered intermediate risk, meaning a 10-20percent chance of heart disease is present per decade. Scores of 100 and greater than the 75percentile for age show a high risk for heart disease over the next ten years. The heart scorecan then be added to other data to assess risk for each person.The heart score is one piece of data that should be part of a more complete plan. This planshould include labs likeC-reactive protein,homocysteine,testosterone(for men),cholester
ol, familyhistory and diabetes risk. The plan should also target optimal nutrition to decrease inflammationand supplements to help maintain the health of the arteries.
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