Healthy words to live by… Check your risk for a heart attack

Calcium buildup is among best predictors of heart-attack risk

By Tim Damron, MD, FACC, cardiologist

A simple, 15-minute test is proving vital when it comes to preventive care for serious health events such as heart attacks.

Cardiac calcium scoring relies on a CT scan of the chest to determine how much plaque, or calcium, has built up in the heart. Depending on the test results, patients can better understand their risk of suffering a heart attack over the ensuing 5-10 years. Armed with this knowledge, they can take the appropriate steps to minimize that risk.

“This test is not for people who have symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath. This test is for people who have no symptoms whatsoever, but who have a risk factor such as diabetes, longstanding history of smoking, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, who want to know their true risk of a heart attack and who are willing to take action based on the results,” said Pleasant Valley Hospital cardiologist Tim Damron, MD, FACC.

Dr. Damron added that strong family history of heart disease is another risk factor. He says the test is primarily for people ages 45 and older.

For more information about the cardiac calcium scoring or to schedule an appointment, call the Jackson Family Diagnostic Center at Pleasant Valley Hospital at 304-675-6257.

What it is: A cardiac calcium scoring test is a quick, hassle-free scan of the patient’s heart. It is designed to measure the amount of hard plaque, or calcium, residing inside coronary arteries. The total amount measured then becomes the patient’s calcium score. The test is a low-radiation chest CT scan. The scan lasts only a few seconds and preparation and setup takes about 10 to 15 minutes. No IV lines or contrast infusion are involved.

Why it’s important: The amount of calcium in coronary arteries is among the best predictors of heart-attack risk, according to research. Thus, knowing your calcium score can result in better decision-making to reduce the risk of heart attack.

Cost: At Pleasant Valley Hospital, calcium scoring tests cost $75, and typically are not covered by insurance. However, reimbursement might be possible via health savings or flexible spending accounts.

For more information or to schedule a cardiac calcium scoring test, please call 304-675-6257.

This piece submitted by Pleasant Valley Hospital.
Calcium buildup is among best predictors of heart-attack risk

By Tim Damron, MD, FACC, cardiologist