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Heart Health: Know Your Calcium Score

August 10, 2012
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BACKGROUND: Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CHD is also called coronary artery disease. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women.

Coronary heart disease is caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries to your heart. This may also be called hardening of the arteries.

  • Fatty material and other substances form a plaque build-up on the walls of your coronary arteries. The coronary arteries bring blood and oxygen to your heart.
  • This buildup causes the arteries to get narrow.
  • As a result, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop. (Source: PubMed Health)

CALCIFIED ARTERIES? According to the Framingham Heart Study of the National Institutes of Health, nearly half of all coronary deaths affect people with no history of heart disease symptoms. For them, a fatal heart attack or sudden death is the first and last hint of a problem. Calcium (along with fat and cholesterol) is a major part of plaque. Calcium scores range from zero (no detectable plaque) to several thousand (extensive plaque). (Source: The New York Times)

TESTING YOUR CALCIUM SCORE: The procedure saves lives by detecting heart disease early enough to allow intensive therapy — with cholesterol-lowering drugs, for example — to keep it in check. Studies have shown there are no ”false positive” scans, because calcium deposits turn up in coronary arteries only when they are associated with plaque.

It is frequently done at commercial imaging centers, using a CT scan. Any calcium deposits will stand out clearly. After the scan, software analyzes all the images and calculates a cumulative calcium score based on the size and density of the deposits. The results are immediately available. A study published in the Journal of Circulation found calcium scans to be a better predictor of coronary events than looking at conventional risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol. ( Source: Journal of Circulation, The New York Times)

Article source: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/health-med-fit-science/heart-health-know-your-calcium-score/nPpkG/

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