The CT Heart Scan – Assessing Cardiovascular Risk

By: Dr. Shelton W. Thomas

Many people are familiar with their family’s medical history and risk factors for certain diseases. But what you might not know is exactly how at-risk you are and how proactive you need to be in order to avoid complications from those diseases.

For the millions of Americans who are at risk for cardiovascular disease, a CT Heart Scan can be one of the best ways to understand your health situation and take action.

Here’s a look at what a CT Heart Scan is and why it can help you and your doctors collect much-needed information about your heart. 

What is a CT Heart Scan?

A CT Heart Scan is a non-invasive test using an imaging method called computed tomography (CT). The test, which creates an image of the heart in about 15 seconds, is very simple. There are no needles or surgery and patients stay fully clothed while it’s being done. The results are available immediately. 

With this test, your doctor assesses the amount of calcium build-up in your heart. The more calcium build-up, the greater your risk for heart disease or heart attack.  Based on your level of risk, your doctor can suggest lifestyle of or medication changes that you might need to consider.

Normal Results Indicate No Build-Up

The normal value for a CT Heart Scan is 0 which indicates you have no calcium deposits in your heart. In the United States, about half of those over 50 receive this normal result.

If you’re in a 75th percentile or above, meaning you have more accumulated calcium than others of your peer group, then you are at a higher risk for a cardiac event or stroke. You’ll want to work with your doctor to identify a course of action that will reduce the progression of your heart disease. 

What Will You Do After the CT Heart Scan?

The results of a CT Heart Scan likely will not lead to surgery. Instead, it’s best to think of this test as a way to determine your current level of calcium accumulation.  It helps doctors determine medical therapy and additional risk factor modification.

How CTs Help Patients With Cardiovascular Risk Factors

If you’re living with cardiovascular risk factors such as a family history of cardiovascular disease before 55, smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, or diabetes, making lifestyle modifications can have a significant impact.

When you undergo a CT Heart Scan, doctors are able to see how much calcium has accumulated in your heart which can be a powerful motivator for making lifestyle changes.

While there are other tests that do similar things, there’s isn’t much evidence that they are as effective as the CT Heart Scan in terms of helping you and your doctor determine if medicine is warranted.

Even if you are currently experiencing high cholesterol, you are not on an inevitable path to cardiovascular disease. If you are tested for and identify an abnormality, you still have the power to do something about it, and that’s why a CT Heart Scan can be such a valuable tool for you and your doctor.

For more information on a CT Heart Scan and cardiovascular risk factors, schedule an appointment with VCS today.


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