Heart scans use a type of X-ray technology called multislice computerized tomography or helical CT to see the calcium in your arteries. This type of scan does have some risks, including exposing you to radiation. However, the potential harm of repeated heart scans over time isn't known.

Another type of heart scan uses computerized tomography (CT) angiography to show narrowing of your heart arteries. If you have this procedure, you could have an allergic reaction to the medication that's used during the procedure.

A caution on walk-in heart scan clinics

Certain medical facilities and walk-in centers may advertise heart scans as a quick, easy way to measure your risk of a heart attack. These advertisements often target people who worry that they might have a particular disease even if they seem healthy and have no known risk factors. Facilities that promote heart scans for the general public don't require a referral from a doctor. You can walk in and get the scan. However, your insurance might not cover these scans. The results of a heart scan should never be interpreted alone, but should be used with information about your overall heart health and any risk factors you have, such as family history and high cholesterol.

If you decide to have a heart scan, it may be best to have it done through your primary doctor, since he or she already knows your other risk factors for a heart attack. If you choose a walk-in scan, be sure to take a copy of the results to your own doctor for follow-up. He or she can help you decide what steps to take to improve your heart health and prevent a heart attack.

May. 01, 2013