South Georgia Medical Center now offers coronary artery calcium (CAC) testing, a newer more accurate tool used to identify risk and guide treatment options for patients with heart disease. Also known as a calcium score, the scan provides images of the coronary arteries that show calcium deposits which are an early sign of coronary artery disease.
SGMC Director of Imaging Mark Hodges says that the scan is simple and painless. The non-invasive imaging evaluates the amount of calcified (hard) plaque in the heart vessels. The level of calcium equates to the extent of plaque build-up in the arteries which can cause heart attacks.
For those with several risk factors for heart disease, the test can help determine the level of risk for a heart event and which treatments, if any, are most appropriate.
“Unlike your traditional risk factors such as smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes, having a real-time evaluation of a patient’s calcium score provides more accurate insight into their individual health,” shared SGMC Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Edward Distler.
Patients with higher scores have a greater risk of a heart attack, heart disease, or stroke. Knowing your score can help your doctor decide on blood pressure and cholesterol goals that will minimize your risk as much as possible.
The American College of Cardiology found that CAC is an excellent cardiovascular disease risk marker and can help guide the decision to use cholesterol-reducing medications such as statins. A negative calcium score may reduce the need for statins in otherwise eligible patients.
Candidates for a CAC scan include:
- Middle age adults at intermediate risk of heart disease
- Family history of heart disease
- Borderline high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes
- Overweight or physical inactivity
- Uncertain about taking daily preventive medical therapy
Patients are encouraged to speak with their physician if they believe they are a candidate. For more information, visit sgmc.org.