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Heart Attack Prevention Test

Tragically, heart disease is the most deadly disease in America – claiming more than a half-million lives annually. Preventing heart attacks is so important to us at Gunnison Valley Health. That is why we are excited to offer coronary calcium scoring, a simple and effective heart attack prevention test.

Coronary calcium scoring (or heart CT scan) is a 10-15 minute test to determine the level of calcium in the coronary artery of your heart. The coronary arteries are the vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Plaque — made of fat, calcium and other substances — can build up and narrow or close the arteries. The coronary calcium scoring test allows doctors to look at the arteries of your heart from outside the body to check for blockages that cause heart attacks. This simple, non-invasive and painless procedure can detect the presence of coronary artery disease long before it becomes symptomatic.

By catching heart disease early through Coronary Calcium Scoring, preventative measures can be taken to reduce the risk of a heart attack and sudden cardiac death.

Who should have the calcium scoring test?

Coronary calcium scoring is for adults within 45-80 years old who have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco use

The coronary calcium scan is a better predictor of coronary events than cholesterol screening or other risk factor assessments and could save your life.

How much does this test cost?

This test does not require a doctor’s order and only costs $149. You can check with your insurance provider to see if this test is covered in your plan.

For more information, speak to your physician. To make an appointment contact Gunnison Valley Health’s Diagnostic Imaging Department at 970-641-7253.

What happens during a heart CT Scan

The procedure is performed by a CT technologist with the assistance of a radiologist.

Once you arrive, you will change into a gown. The procedure is performed by a CT technologist who will explain the procedure to you and escort you to the CT room.

You will lie on your back on the CT table and EKG electrodes will be placed on your chest to monitor your heart rate. The CT table will move in very small increments every few seconds and take pictures.

You may be asked to hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds, and you will need to hold perfectly still. Even though you will be left alone in the room, the technologist will watch you through a window, and you will be able to speak to him or her.

The scan takes approximately 20-30 seconds, but from start to finish it takes approximately 10-15 minutes.

Calcium Score Results

The purpose of the test is to understand your risk of a heart attack, taking preventive or corrective measures based on the results.

If you have any plaque present (a score greater than 0), your doctor may make recommendations for lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating better and exercising more. The higher your score the more treatment your doctor may recommend.

However, the result of a heart scan shouldn't be used as a single predictor of your overall health and risk of heart disease. It's best used when combined with other health information.

The Coronary Calcium Score

Calcium Score

Implication Risk of Coronary Event

0

No identifiable plaque

Very low, generally less than 1 percent. No follow up necessary. Retest in 5 years.

1-99

At least minimal atherosclerotic plaque Mild or minimal coronary narrowings likely. Patient instructed to follow up with Primary Care Provider.

100-399

At least moderate atherosclerotic plaque Mild coronary artery disease highly likely, significant narrowings possible. Patient instructed to follow up with Primary Care Provider.

400-999

Extensive atherosclerotic plaque High likelihood of at least one significant coronary narrowing. Patient instructed to follow up with Primary Care Provider, Lipid Specialist, or Cardiologist.

1000 or above

Very extensive atherosclerotic plaque Schedule SAME DAY follow up with Primary Care Provider or Cardiologist.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the calcium score test?

The coronary artery calcium score test is a diagnostic screening test for the presence of blockages that can cause heart attacks. This test is very important as waiting for symptoms is not a wise approach. 50% of Americans find out they have heart disease by either a heart attack or sudden death as the 1st symptom.

What is coronary calcium?

The arteries that bring blood to the heart can sometimes become blocked leading to a heart attack. Theses blockages are often form by calcium.

Is the test invasive?

No. The calcium score test is done in the open CT scanner. It is one of the most patient friendly tests available and the patient will only be in the CT scanner for a couple of minutes. There is no patient prep or recovery time and no needles or contrast involved.

What if I have a high score?

Most people will have very early stage disease or no blockages, however if you are found to have a high score we will advise you to follow-up with your physician, lipid specialist and/or a cardiologist for further evaluation. While disappointing, it is far better to find a high score than ignore it and wait for a heart attack to be the first sign something is wrong.

What is the calcium score test?

The coronary artery calcium score test is a diagnostic screening test for the presence of blockages that can cause heart attacks. This test is very important as waiting for symptoms is not a wise approach. 50% of Americans find out they have heart disease by either a heart attack or sudden death as the 1st symptom.

Will my insurance pay for the test?

Since the calcium score test is a screening test not all insurance companies are paying for it. We do suggest you check with your insurance provider to see if this test is covered in your plan.

Should I have the test if I am already taking medicine to lower my cholesterol?

Even if you are taking a statin to lower cholesterol it is important to have this test. The test will determine if you have actual blockages in the arteries of your heart. Lowering cholesterol is important, but it is also vital to learn if you have blockages that could cause a heart attack.

Should I stop taking my calcium pills my doctor gave me?

Calcium as prescribed by your doctor is important for bone health and is very different from calcium found in the arteries of the heart. They are unrelated and you should not stop taking your supplement.

How often should I take the test?

If you are low risk, it is important that you do take the test every three (3) years to ensure your calcium levels have not changed.


For more information, speak to your physician. To make an appointment contact Gunnison Valley Health’s Diagnostic Imaging Department at 970-641-7253.

Contact Gunnison Valley Health - Cardiac Health Assessment

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