Coronary calcium scan: A heart test that may help guide treatment
In an editorial on “The Potential and Pitfalls of Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring” published in October in JAMA Cardiology, Dr. Khan and his co-author, Dr. Ann Marie Navarre, a cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, concluded. That for middle-aged and older adults like my friend, calcium testing is one of the best and safest ways to identify the presence of otherwise hidden atherosclerosis.
Why younger adults should care.
Calcium scan results can also be important to young men and women — and sometimes to their physicians, who may not take risk factors in younger patients as seriously as they should.
“Given the strong association between coronary artery calcium and heart disease,” Dr. “The presence of coronary artery calcium in young adults should be a red flag for a high-risk patient,” wrote Khan and Navar. As Dr Khan explained in an interview, “presence” Any Calcium in the coronary arteries is a sign of heart disease.”
When atherosclerosis first begins to develop, arterial lesions, called plaques, are not palpated, explained Dr. Philip Greenland, who is also a preventive cardiologist at Northwestern. Instead, wounds acquire bony deposits over time that gradually grow as the plaque breaks down and is repaired. The healing process causes calcification, he said.
Dr. Greenland cautioned that patients and doctors should never assume that a calcium score of zero means there is nothing to worry about. He added that in men younger than 40 and women younger than 50, “you can’t rely on coronary artery calcium alone, because levels are usually zero, even in the presence of atherosclerosis.”
Rather, he and Dr. Kahn said, in young adults, follow-up testing and medical advice should be based on the extent of the patients’ cardiovascular risk, including whether they have any symptoms of heart disease, such as climbing stairs. Shortness of breath or chest pain when exerting yourself.
Good news, and bad news, about zero calcium scores.
Dr. Greenland said that “people with a low risk factor profile and a calcium score of zero have a sort of warranty that they will not have a heart attack within 10 years.”
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