Ever have a CAC Coronary calcium score test done?

les26

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When I was really stressed out thanks to MANY things I had a physical about 6 weeks ago and all the blopd work was great but like my past history for the past 5 years or so my "bad" cholesterol was high, the "good" and Tryglycerides are good, but I was stress eating ice cream and other junk at night, was out of shape and the doctor suggested statins but I told him no thanks, I'll exercise and stop the stress eating and add more fiber and he said that's fine, we'll retest in 6 months. I have lost 15 pounds, feel better, am seeing a wonderful counselor who is teaching me how to cope with the stress but awhile ago when I was worried I read about Coronary calcium score x-rays, asked my doctor about it and he sent in a prescription to have one done, but since I feel better about things and have no real heart history family issues and am not having any symptoms I cancelled it. I also read that even people who DO have heart disease and have had heart attacks can get a zero calium buildup score so I question what good it would do, would it be worth going under radiation, and if they found anything wrong (which I doubt) they would probably just tell me to do the things I already have started doing.

If this was THE definitive test that would definitely tell me if I am going to have any issues down the line I would do it, but I don't think it is, plus there are how many other tests that could also be done, I don't feel it necessary to go down that rabbit hole although my doctor says he thinks I should still have it done.

What are your thoughts on this?
 

Jem

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According to what I quickly read about this scan. This is a great test for an otherwise "healthy" person who may have some risk factors to determine a person's risk or level of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and is much more effective at detecting and determining issues then simply based on risk factors and cholesterol levels. According to some studies, as much as 11% of people who based on risk factors and basic testing that were classified as low risk were upgraded to moderate risk after taking this test. While there is some radiation...it is a fairly low amount of exposure. It's just a better and more conclusive test, with little risk, especially for those who have low to moderate risk of heart disease. It's the test you do before symptoms show up so you can help with prevention of heart attack or stroke and further hardening of the arteries (if any is present). FYI, 50% of Americans over 40 will have some level of hardening and the risk only increases with age. Not the whole 50% of people will develop symptoms or severe complications....but...that's still a big number if were talking about being able to implement preventative measures.

Another test is of course the angiogram. This is the one where they inject you with dye and then do a detailed scan to find possible blockages and levels of calcium and hardening. This one is usually not done on someone who is otherwise "healthy" due to the level of radiation. It is of course more effective...but also comes with more risks due to radiation exposure, so it's usually only done on someone who actually displays symptoms of heart disease.

Then there is the carotid ultrasound (carotid intimal media thickness). This test can detect the early onset of arterial hardening in young patients without the risk of radiation. It scans the carotid arteries (the ones in the neck that lead to the head). It is said that a 0.1mm thickening of the arterial wall means a 10% increase risk of heart attack and 13% increase of stroke. This test can only be done by a very specific ultrasound machine and should only be done at centers with the appropriate expertise. And apparently it is also a pretty expensive test.

Although I have not had any of these tests myself, if I had a low risk or had any risk factors of developing heart disease, I would probably get the calcium score test done if suggested by my doctor. Another thing I read about this test is it's great for those who may be on the fence about starting pharmaceutical intervention for lowering risk factors...like starting on a cholesterol med or low dose blood thinner. Especially if diet and exercise are "noooot quiiite" (say with a higher pitched tone :lol: ) doing it.


Anyway....I'm not a doctor, nor a heart patient...this was just my :2cents: based on what I read and what others around me have gone thru with their heart health. We have heart and stroke issues in my family, and being a health professional I have known many people...who otherwise would have seemed "healthy" have heart attacks.
 
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les26

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Thanks for your great reply! I forgot to mention that I did have a treadmill stress test October 2022 and everything was fine. I had read about this calcium test and asked the doctor about it, had I not done that we wouldn't be having this conversation right now, but this morning I messaged the cardiologist who did the treadmill test asking him his opinion on it. And also the stress test was also my idea, I have known many people around me my age and younger who have passed and wanted to get a "baseline" and he agreed that was a good idea.

But I am anxious to see how much my numbers drop with the exercise and diet changes and more fiber, and now I wonder if I should get this calcium scan done now or wait to see what the numbers will be when my doctor wants me to get retested in November? If it would help I will do it, but if not I don't want to put myself through it and the radiation albeit small amount. But I stress this was not my doctor's idea to do this, it actually was mine!
 

denice

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I would wait and see what your numbers look like after the diet and exercise changes. I had made the changes because of a high blood pressure reading and my blood pressure responded both very well and quickly. I had never had a high reading before and the only thing I knew about was keeping sodium intake down which I hadn't been doing because my blood pressure had never been high. I didn't know about getting enough potassium to regulate fluid in the cells, aka water retention. I didn't know about the connection between beets and lowering blood pressure. I know it is better to get what is needed from food rather than supplements but I don't care for beets so I am taking the Superbeets supplement. I also didn't know that challenging the heart with the 150 minutes of moderate exercise would lower blood pressure.
 
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