LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -It's a newer technology to help detect who's at risk for heart disease...it's called calcium scoring. But cardiologists warn this new scan shouldn't be the first line of defense for fighting heart disease.
Calcium scoring is a quick and painless test. It is a type of CT scan that measures the amount of calcium in the blood vessels of the heart.
"Calcium scoring is a valid screening test for determination of risk factors for coronary artery disease," explained Dr. Robert Sweeney, a cardiologist at Comanche County Memorial Hospital.
Usually the higher your calcium score, the higher your risk of a heart attack. But a low score doesn't necessarily mean your arteries are free and clear.
"The absence of calcium doesn't reliably exclude the presence of significant blockage or atherosclerosis," said Dr. Sweeney.
That's why Dr. Sweeney stresses the fact that calcium scoring should only be used as an additional tool.
"Because not all plaque is calcified, some plaque is fibrofatty," he said.
Dr. Sweeney also mentions that the amount of calcium is not necessarily as important as where it is located.
"We've known for many, many years that when heart attacks occur that generally a plaque ruptures at what they call a vulnerable shoulder and specifically they note that there's more stress in the thin, fiberous cap than any other place," Dr. Sweeney said.
He warns this test is just one indicator of potential heart problems.
"The take home message is that there is no one test you could do that you could absolutely exclude or include the presence or absence of coronary artery disease," Dr. Sweeney said.
Coronary artery calcium scoring can help doctors determine whether or not further tests, like CT angiography or stress tests, are needed. Dr. Sweeney says considering almost 500,000 people die every year in the U.S. from heart problems...the first line of defense is changing your lifestyle to lower your risks, before you suffer a coronary event.
Calcium scoring is being offered at Comanche County Memorial Hospital at the Heart and Vascular Center for $50. It should be noted that calcium scoring is not appropriate for heart patients who have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease and have been treated with stents or open heart surgery. If you would like to make an appointment, call 580-250-4278.
In other Heart Month news, mark your calendar for the healthy heart screenings, which will be held on Feb. 29 and March 1 from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Oakwood Conference Center. The free screening includes an electrocardiogram, heart risk assessment, waist circumference, height, weight and body mass test. For only $20, you can receive lab tests that include your A1C, good, bad and total cholesterol and triglycerides. To make an appointment, call 580-585-5406.
Another Good Hearted Woman luncheon will be held on Friday, March 4, at noon in the Oakwood Conference Center. The cost is $5 and cardiologist Dr. Ronald Woodson will be speaking about women and heart disease. To make a reservation, call 580-585-5406.