Coronary Calcium Screenings


A test that has been around since the 1990s has a better predictability of heart disease than other screenings used by physicians. Most commonly used to evaluate the risk of heart disease includes blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood glucose, and lifestyle factors. Now, doctors are suggesting that if you have a serious concern about your risk, you should be asking your physician for a coronary artery calcium score. Researches followed multiple patients ranging from 1 year to roughly 3 years and discovered that the CAC score alone and regular evaluations plus CAC score did a more accurate job of predicting those who would eventually need bypass surgery or a stent inserted into their heart, than just a regular evaluation.


The test measures the amount of plaque built up in your arteries and gives a score from 0 to over 1,0000 which includes extremely high-risk patients. Dr. Mary Norine Walsh, a medical director of the heart failure and cardiac transplantation program at ST. Vincent hospital in Indianapolis believes that the “CAC scoring has really come into its own.” Walsh also believes that with growing evidence, every day people will be able to get this test done through their insurance providers.


In the past, the test required a lot of radiation and scared doctors away from suggesting it, but with modern technology, exposure to radiation is the same as a mammogram. The test is administered like a regular CT scan, where the patient lies on a table and pictures are taken. What doctors are able to see is “the calcification of the heart artery.”  Those with abnormal cholesterol levels, diabetes and family history of heart disease and hypertension have a higher chance of having an abnormal CAC score.


As the new study begins to make a wave in the medical community, and outside recommendations that stem from billboards advertising “Fathers Day Special” in which someone could gift a screening to those who feared a heart attack, it is predicted that we’re going to use the test more in the near future.