When it comes to monitoring your heart health, the Coronary Calcium Score is a crucial tool that can provide valuable insights. This simple and non-invasive test can help assess your risk of heart disease and guide you toward a healthier life ().
In this article you will learn:
What Is a Coronary Calcium Score?
The Coronary Calcium Score is a diagnostic test that measures the amount of calcium buildup in your coronary arteries, which are the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle (). Calcium deposits in these arteries can indicate the presence of atherosclerosis or plaque buildup, a condition that narrows and stiffens the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Why It Matters
Understanding your Coronary Calcium Score is essential because it can identify potential heart disease before symptoms appear. Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, and early detection can be life-saving (). By knowing your score, you can take proactive steps to manage your heart health and reduce your risk.
How Is the Coronary Calcium Score Measured?
The Coronary Calcium Score is typically obtained through a quick and painless CT scan of your heart (). During the scan, a specialised computer calculates the amount of calcium in your coronary arteries. The result is a numerical score that correlates with the severity of any plaque buildup.
The calcium in your arteries can serve as a marker of atherosclerosis. It’s important to note that the presence of calcium in the arteries doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem, but it does indicate an increased risk. This risk can be managed through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medications.
Who Should Consider Getting Tested?
The Coronary Calcium Score is recommended for individuals who have risk factors for heart disease, such as ():
High Blood Pressure: Hypertension is a significant risk factor for heart disease.
High Cholesterol Levels: Elevated cholesterol levels can contribute to plaque buildup.
Family History: If heart disease runs in your family, you may be at higher risk.
Smoking: Tobacco use increases the risk of atherosclerosis.
It’s essential to discuss your score with a GP or cardiologist who can provide guidance based on your individual risk factors.
Interpreting Your Calcium Heart Test Score
Your Coronary Calcium Score will fall into one of several categories, indicating your risk level ():
- 0: No detectable plaque or calcium deposits. Very low risk.
- 1-100: Minimal to mild plaque. Low risk.
- 101-400: Moderate plaque. Moderate risk.
- 401 or higher: Extensive plaque. High risk.
It’s important to understand that a higher score does not necessarily mean you will experience a heart attack, but it does indicate a greater risk (). Your GP or cardiologist can use this score, along with other risk factors, to develop a personalised plan for heart disease prevention.
Benefits of the Coronary Calcium Score
- Early Detection: One of the most significant advantages of the Coronary Calcium Score is its ability to detect heart disease before symptoms occur. This early detection allows for timely intervention and preventive measures, potentially saving lives ().
- Personalised Risk Assessment: Your score helps tailor your prevention plan. If you have a higher score, your healthcare provider may recommend more aggressive lifestyle changes and medications to lower your risk ().
- Motivation for Lifestyle Changes: A high score can be a wake-up call, motivating individuals to make healthier choices. Lifestyle modifications, such as adopting a heart-healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and quitting smoking, can significantly impact your score and reduce your risk ().
- Tracking Progress: Periodic tests can monitor the effectiveness of interventions. By monitoring changes in your Coronary Calcium Score over time, healthcare providers can assess whether your prevention strategies are working and make adjustments as needed.
A Heart-Healthy Diet
Maintaining a heart-healthy diet is a vital component of reducing your risk of heart disease, and it can complement the insights gained from your Coronary Calcium Score. A heart-healthy diet focuses on consuming foods that promote cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of plaque buildup in your arteries. This includes: consuming fruit and vegetables, choosing wholegrains, opting for lean protein sources, including healthy fats, limiting saturated and trans fats, moderating alcohol consumption and reducing salt intake (). If you need advice on how to change your diet to be more heart friendly, it is worth discussing this with an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
The Coronary Calcium Score, or the “calcium heart test,” is a valuable tool in assessing your risk of heart disease. By understanding your score and its implications, you can take control of your heart health. Remember that lifestyle changes, such as a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, and stopping smoking, can positively impact your score and reduce your risk. Knowledge is power, and knowing your risk allows you to make informed decisions and take the necessary actions to protect your heart.