You know your cholesterol numbers and you check your blood pressure frequently. But there’s one other number that can tell you a lot about your heart health and you may never have heard of it.
It’s your calcium score, or coronary artery calcium score. To get the score, you undergo a 10-minute noninvasive CT scan, which measures the amount of calcium in your coronary arteries. "We can get a score anywhere between zero, which is no calcium, or several thousand which is a lot of calcium,” said CHI Health Cardiologist Jeff Carstens. “Then we can calculate a risk for the patient to have future cardiac events.” Dr. Carstens recently talked with KETV about the importance of calcium test scores.
Bottom line, the higher your score for your age, the greater your risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Sample calcium score readings
0 = You’re at low risk of a heart attack in the next five years because you don’t have calcium deposits
400 or more = You’re at high risk of a heart attack within 10 years
Over 1,000 = You have up to a 20 percent chance of having a heart attack within a year without medical treatment
Talk with your primary care provider and get tested
You and your primary care doctor should discuss whether a calcium test is right for you; he or she can then order the test. Once patients know their score, Carstens said, they can adjust their lifestyles accordingly.
The cost of a calcium score test is under $400 and is sometimes covered by insurance. You can also buy a voucher on mdsave.com/chi-health. The MDsave cost for the test that potentially could save your life: $125.
The testing is offered at CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center – Bergan Mercy, Immanuel, Lakeside and Midlands. And don’t give up checking your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Even if your blood pressure is slightly elevated, the American Heart Association says the 65 million Americans who have prehypertension may be three times as likely to have a heart attack than those with normal blood pressure. High blood cholesterol also increases your risk for heart disease.
See how CHI Health teamed up with the Papillion Fire Department to offer low cost, noninvasive calcium cardiac CT scans in this story on KETV.com.