After your heart scan is finished, your doctor will share the results with you. If you'd like a copy of your scan, ask your doctor, since copies aren't routinely given. If your coronary calcium score is high, that may mean you need more aggressive treatment of your heart attack risk factors, such as medications or lifestyle changes. Your doctor may also recommend more-invasive tests, such as coronary angiography, based on your scan results.
The theory behind using heart scans is that the more calcification you have, the worse your heart disease. But even having very small amounts of calcium might indicate that you could go on to develop heart disease unless you take aggressive measures to stop it, such as eating a healthier diet, reducing your cholesterol and quitting smoking.
On the other hand, having calcium in your coronary arteries may not necessarily mean that you'll develop coronary artery disease or have a heart attack. Even so, if your scan indicates you have calcium, you might get unnecessary and invasive tests, such as coronary angiography, that could cause you to worry needlessly about your health.
The flip side is also true: If a heart scan shows your arteries are free of calcium, it doesn't necessarily mean you don't have any plaques. Plaque develops calcium only as it matures. The older you get without detectable calcium, the lower your risk of a heart attack or developing coronary artery disease.
May 01, 2013
- American Heart Association position statement on state efforts to mandate coronary arterial calcification and carotid intima media thickness screenings among asymptomatic adults. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/.../ucm_437479.pdf. Accessed March 12, 2013.
- Greenland P, et al. 2010 ACCF/AHA guideline for assessment of cardiovascular risk in asymptomatic adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2010;56:e50.
- Whelton WP, et al. Coronary artery calcium and primary prevention risk assessment: What is the evidence? An updated meta-analysis on patient and physician behavior. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2012;5:601.
- What is a coronary calcium scan? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/cscan/cscan_all.html. Accessed March 12, 2013.
- Yeboah J, et al. Comparison of novel risk markers for improvement in cardiovascular risk assessment in intermediate-risk individuals. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2012;308:788.
- Youssef G, et al. Coronary calcium: New insights, recent data and clinical role. Current Cardiology Reports. 2013;15:325.
- Rozanski A, et al. Impact of coronary artery calcium scanning on coronary risk factors and downstream testing. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;57:1622.
- Nasir K, et al. Coronary calcium scanning should be used for primary prevention. JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. 2012;5:111.
- Blaha MJ, et al. Associations between C-reactive protein, coronary artery calcium, and cardiovascular events: implications for the JUPITER population from MESA, a population-based cohort study. Lancet. 2011;378:684.
- Heart disease fact sheet. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm. Accessed March 12, 2013.
- Gerber TC, et al. Diagnostic and prognostic implications of coronary artery calcification detected by computed tomography. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 9, 2013.
- Reinsch N, et al. Comparison of dual-source and clectron-beam CT for assessment of coronary artery calcium scoring. British Journal of Radiology. 2012;85:e300.