What is a calcium score? What are the top 10 benefits?

By Michael MacDonald

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and strokes) are the primary cause of increasing deaths worldwide. Figures show that a quarter of patients who experience myocardial infarction display no clinical manifestations. The CT Coronary Calcium score, can help predict cardiovascular events and prevent death. It is a simple test that calculates the amount of calcium in your heart arteries. More calcium equals more coronary artery disease.

The Calcium Score Screening: How It is Done?

Calcium score plays a critical role in cardiac risk stratification or calculating the probability of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). Also called Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring (CACS), calcium scoring involves cardiac computed tomography (CT). It shows the basic structures of the heart, particularly coronary arteries, and identifies calcium present in the blood vessels. A deposit of calcium indicates coronary artery disease.

The scan is done in a CT scanner. There are no injections, and it is a very quick test with low radiation. It only takes less than 30 minutes. Once the scan is done, the radiographer will then calculate the level of calcium (calcium score) and your report will compare your score to other people of a similar age group and sex.

A calcium score of 0 denotes low risk for heart attack.

10 Ways Calcium Score Predicts Heart Health

  1. Calcium score determines the amount of plaque disease in the heart arteries
    As people develop fatty plaques in their heart arteries, calcium is often deposited in the plaque. The more calcium, the more plaque disease is present in the arteries.
  2. Calcium score helps predict non-cardiovascular mortality.
    Calcium scoring does not only provide clinical cardiovascular disease risk stratification. It also investigates other cause-specific mortality, including cancer, kidney disease, and bowel disorders. Calcium score serves as a valuable tool in calculating arterial aging and preventing micro-and macrovascular complications. In a 10-year study, researchers identified 68% of the participants who have new cancer diagnoses have evident calcium deposits. It also revealed that a high calcium score begets a 70% chance of developing kidney disease.
  3. Calcium score provides additional useful information over other tests.
    Calcium scoring supplements other tests, such as the Framingham risk score, in providing more accurate risk stratification information. The imaging test also helps support other diagnostic methods, such as carotid intima-media thickness, stress myocardial perfusion, and C-reactive protein level.
  4. The calcium score is an effective clinical stratification method for asymptomatic individuals. Research shows that calcium scoring is highly efficient when performed among individuals with no symptoms. When used in people without symptoms it provides more accurate estimation of heart attack risk.
  5. Serial calcium score can help to monitor disease progression
    An annual increment of 15% or more of coronary calcium raises cardiovascular risks by 17 folds, the American College of Cardiology reports.
  6. Calcium scores are safe, quick and simple
    A calcium score test takes less than 30 minutes, and there are no needles. Making them an ideal screening test.
  7. Calcium score serves an economic benefit.
    Calcium scores help save hefty costs from developing health complications and hospital admissions. Because of the efficacy of calcium scoring, asymptomatic patients who had initial tests may not need follow-up evaluation until five (5) years, based on studies. However, high-risk groups such as smokers, diabetic and older people may need the test more often.
    Calcium score
    According to the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), calcium scoring is a cost-saving measure. By obtaining early calcium scoring, clinicians can implement timely prevention guidelines, and patients can avoid expensive treatments.
  8. Calcium score can prevent unnecessary testing.
    Patients with atypical clinical manifestations may benefit from calcium score monitoring before any invasive diagnostic test, such as coronary angiography. The diagnostic test is not only cost-effective but also beneficial for patients as if normal it may allow you to defer invasive diagnostic testing.
  9. People with diabetes can predict their cardiovascular event risk by performing calcium scores. Clinical evidence shows that even in the asymptomatic young diabetic population, the prevalence of coronary heart disease is high. The test is therefore valuable in reducing mortality among diabetic individuals and warrants noninvasive screening for silent ischemia.
  10. Calcium scoring is a reliable predictor for coronary atherosclerosis. Certain factors precipitate and predispose to significant atherosclerotic changes in the coronary arteries. The American Heart Association recommends calcium scoring to patients who have low, borderline, and intermediate risks. Calcium scoring is a reliable predictor for cardiovascular risk stratification based on demographics and disease attributable burden. It does not only provide risk scores. Calcium scoring also serves as a supplementary tool to other diagnostic methods that aid doctors in clinical decision-making, and treatment decisions.

Conclusion

Calcium score is a safe and simple test that can be performed in under half an hour. It is an excellent tool to help in the calculation of cardiac risk. Its real utility lies in helping decide who needs treatment to prevent heart attacks.


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