Congratulations! Whether you are considering having a coronary calcium score, or you’ve already had your scan – you should be proud of your proactive approach to protecting yourself against heart attack & sudden death!

Your Heart Report advocates for the use of Cardiac Calcium Scoring in ALL at-risk individuals. We know well that a simple score can guide correct decision-making with your healthcare provider, and motivate the lifestyle changes you need. Cardiac Calcium Scoring can help you to secure your long-term heart health. Through our support of healthcare institutions – we aim to make Cardiac Calcium Scoring available no matter where you live!

This page will cover:

(1) Why Cardiac Calcium Scoring?

(2) What is a Cardiac Calcium Score?

(3) Should I have a Cardiac Calcium Score?

(4) I had my score, what do the results mean?

For a detailed step-by-step plan on how to use CCS to prevent YOUR first heart attack, pick up your copy of, “Get More From Your Score” today!

For a detailed plan on how to use Cardiac Calcium Scoring to protect your long-term cardiovascular health, purchase your “Guide”.

Why Cardiac Calcium Scoring?

Patients put their faith and trust in me to secure a long life free of heart attack and heart disease….Cardiac Calcium Scoring is a necessary part of that plan.

Before Cardiac Calcium Scoring, the professional cardiology community was failing to identify the highest risk patients until far into the disease. Often a heart attack or sudden death was the first symptom! Despite all advances in the treatment of heart disease — we were watching and waiting, blindly treating risk factors, without any sense of whether a heart attack was minutes or decades away.

Having studied closely strategies for prevention, it was clear to me — the issue was not lack of effective medications and lifestyle changes. It was the lack of identifying at-risk people BEFORE an event, allowing time to intensify risk-reducing measures. To truly prevent a heart attack, it helps to see it coming!

Clearly — a Coronary Calcium Score which measures more accurately your TRUE risk of heart attack, can impact personal decisions in prevention, and those made by your doctor. Read below…but be sure to pick up your copy of, “Get More From Your Score” to consider when the time is right for your first CCS scan. If you’ve already had your scan, pick up the guide to fully understand your results and what to do about it!

What is a Cardiac Calcium Score?

A Cardiac Calcium Score requires you have a cardiac Computed Tomography (CT) scan performed. Cardiac CT is a painless, non-invasive test which allows visualization of the heart coronary arteries.

In this test, pictures are taken of the heart to look for the presence of calcium deposits in the heart’s arteries (coronary arteries). Calcium deposits are a very specific sign of coronary artery disease (CAD) which causes both heart attack and sudden death. CAD involves the slow build-up of plaque within the coronary arteries over decades of your life. This plaque is made up of calcium, cholesterol and inflammation.Cardiac Calcium Scoring takes advantage of the fact that calcium shows up bright white on a CT scan. By counting up the amount of bright-white calcium seen in the heart arteries, the plaque present in your heart arteries can be summed into a “score”.

Since heart attack and death from CAD occur suddenly when a plaque cracks open, there is commonly no blockage of blood-flow prior to this event. So where a Coronary Calcium Score might detect your risk early by measuring plaque directly, a screening stress test which looks only for blockage may well remain “normal” right up to a heart attack or sudden death.

What’s involved?

Cardiac CT scanning requires specialized CT scanners. These scanners have the ability to take at least 16 pictures of the heart at the same time.

For calcium scoring, no IV access is needed. You lay flat on a movable table in front of the CT scanner, and are placed on a heart rhythm monitor for the scan. The actual CT scanner, or gantry, is doughnut shaped and only about 2 feet thick, so claustrophobia is seldom an issue. You will hold your breath and stay completely still as the table moves through the scanner. The actual scan lasts only for about 10-15 seconds! The entire scanning process usually takes less than 15 minutes.

Should I have a Cardiac Calcium Score?

In most basic terms, there are 5 reasons you would benefit from Cardiac Calcium Scoring:

(1) You are at “INTERMEDIATE risk” for a heart attack, based on clinical and lab values.

– Calculate your clinical risk using the risk calculator HERE.
– A “10-year” risk between  7.5%  and 20% is considered “INTERMEDIATE”.
– 2/3rds (66%) of “INTERMEDIATE” risk people are shown to be truly “HIGH” or “LOW” risk after Coronary Calcium Score evaluation.

(2) You have a family history of heart attack or sudden death, earlier in life.

– Male 1st-degree relative prior to 65, or female 1st-degree relative prior to 55 years-old.
– Consider when you are 5 years younger than when your family member had their event.
– Since risk calculators can not accurately incorporate family history.

(3) You prefer to avoid statins like Lipitor, Pravachol, Crestor or Zocor. Or you have had side effects.

– Decisions on medications must weigh the true benefits vs. the true risks.
– Knowing your true risk of heart attack helps you understand the true (or un-true) benefit of your statin in reducing that risk.
– Put simply: a ZERO score should bring into question any benefit. A score >300 should motivate a high-dose / high-potency statin prescription.

(4) You are diabetic.

– Risk-predictors are notoriously inaccurate in the diabetic population.
– Data clearly supports Coronary Calcium Scoring for defining true risk of heart attack in diabetics.

(5) You currently smoke cigarettes.

– “HIGH risk” results on Coronary Calcium Scoring led 35% of smokers to quit, in YHR data.
– Every smoker knows, “I should quit, it’s not good for me”. A HIGH score provides the needed motivation.

Other reasons you might benefit:  if you suffer from a chronic inflammatory disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis or if you had a scan more than 4 years ago and want/need to track how your current treatment is working.

Who should NOT have a Coronary Calcium Score:  if you have had a heart attack, stroke, stent or arterial bypass procedure — since you already know you are a high risk patient; if you trying to decide if your symptoms (of chest pain etc.) are from blocked heart arteries — see a doctor to discuss options, stress testing is likely more appropriate; if you had a CCS in the last 4 years — since repeated scans at short intervals are unlikely to change your treatment.

What are the potential down-sides to Coronary Calcium Scoring?

Cost. Insurers have yet to pay for this test. Cost therefore varies — anywhere from $99 – $399.  You may be able to pay with a Health Savings Account (HSA) and count the expense toward your deductible.

Radiation. This is a much talked about down-side. However, use of Coronary Calcium Scoring is estimated to carry (at-most) a 1-in-9000 or 0.01% risk of causing cancer. Compare this with YHR data showing that 1-in-300 Coronary Calcium Scoring scans detected an otherwise un-diagnosed cancer. Also consider that new guidelines recommend CT as a screening method for lung cancer in former smokers. Discussion with your doctor may be warranted, though usually the potential benefit will out-weight any theoretical risk of radiation in the groups described above.

I had my score, what do the results mean?

Here we help you understand your score on a basic level. At a minimum — you will want to consider your “total score” and then compare yourself to your peers with a “percentile” ranking. For a more complete understanding of the results and what to do with them, purchase our “Guide”.

Your “total score” is an excellent predictor of whether you’ll have a heart attack, stroke or die in the next 5-10 years. Think about it. The amount of plaque you have right now predicts the odds you have a plaque that will rupture — nothing more clear and intuitive than that!

Your “percentile” is also important.  It tells you whether you are building up plaque more quickly or slowly compared with people of the same age, gender and race.  For example an 80 year-old white man with a total score of 100 [24th percentile] is far better off than a 45 year-old white man with the same total score of 100 [95th percentile]. The 80-year-old took a LONG time to build up plaque, and is unlikely to have a heart attack before age 90. The 45 year-old is building up plaque earlier than expected, and has a VERY HIGH chance of having a heart attack before the age of 80. That is unless their rapid rate of plaque formation is stopped soon!

Total Score Risk Category Risk of Heart Attack per Year
0 VERY LOW 0.1%
1-100 LOW 0.5%
101-400 INTERMEDIATE 1 – 2 %
401-1000 HIGH 2 – 3 %
>1000 VERY HIGH >3 %
“Percentile” Risk Category
1-24% LOW
76-90% HIGH
A simple way to think of this is,
“Your total score tells you where your risk is NOW, your percentile is where your risk is GOING.”

Of course the whole idea of Coronary Calcium Scoring is to allow for early preventive treatments. Starting a “statin” or aspirin, exercising, losing weight can ALL reduce short- and long-term risk of heart attack. Looking for blocked arteries and fixing them with stents or coronary bypass surgery may be necessary in very high risk patients.

To learn how to use your Coronary Calcium Score to prevent heart attack and death, purchase our “Guide”.