The Heart Calcium Scan is a test to look for heart disease caused by plaque in the blood vessels that supply the heart. The test itself only takes a few minutes and is acquired using a CT scanner. CT scanners use x-rays to create images of the inside of our bodies. Dr Matt Budoff’s Team at LA BioMed uses a CT scanner so advanced that it can create images of the entire heart in less time than a single heartbeat! With such advanced technology, we no longer have to worry about things that commonly reduce the quality of a scan, such as breathing motion or the normal motion of our hearts as they beat. The x-ray radiation exposure for the Heart Calcium Scan is less than of a mammogram!
Using the images from the Heart Calcium Scan, expert physicians like Dr Budoff calculate the Calcium Score. This Score quantifies how much calcium you have in the blood vessels supplying your heart (coronary arteries). Plaques that narrow the coronary arteries contain calcium. This plaque can lead to a heart attack. Likewise, a similar process occurs in other small arteries, including ones that supply our brains (cerebral arteries). Hence, a stroke occurs as a result of a blockage in a cerebral artery.
Let's look at the proof. Dr Budoff and colleagues analyzed updated data from an important study called MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) with 6,814 participants. The updated data included over 10 years of follow up information on the participants of the study. All of these individuals had a Heart Calcium Scan. MESA is an excellent example of how we all can advance health by participating in long term studies (more about that on a future blog post).
The key point Dr Budoff communicated in his publication is that the Calcium Score is an excellent way to determine your risk of a bad event due to cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack, stroke, or death. In fact, the Calcium Score matches up extremely well with the ASCVD risk score commonly used by physicians. A Calcium Score of 0 puts you at low risk of a bad event, which means you have less than a 5% chance of such an event in the next 10 years. With a Calcium Score over 100, you are at high risk for such an event, which translates to over 7.5% chance of a bad event. Remarkably, the Calcium Score is highly valuable to everyone, regardless of sex, ethnicity, and age. Unlike many things in life, this test really works for all of us; the fine print is that we do have gaps, such as in people of South Asian descent. I will discuss how many of us can help to diversify data in a future post.
If you are a science geek (I am!), then you will be thrilled as I dig into one of the figures from Dr Budoff’s publication (figure below). This figure has 2 parts — on the left, there is MESA data from women and on the right is MESA data from men (no, that was not to make a political statement!). In both sections, you see multiple color coded lines graphing data. The lines represent ranges of Calcium Scores: 0, 1 to 100, 101 to 300, over 300. Also, on each side is a dotted line from left to right that marks the 7.5% risk line; above the line is a greater than 7.5% chance of a bad cardiovascular event (“hard CVD”) in the next 10 years, which is high risk ASCVD.
Since the commonly used ASCVD risk score gives a 10 year risk, Dr Budoff and others focused on providing a 10 year risk based on the Calcium Score. With that lens, the graphs show that a Calcium Score of 0 doesn’t cross the dotted line; furthermore, Score 0 stays low risk, which means below 5% chance of a bad event. In the 1–100 range, the lines cross the infamous 7.5% threshold into high risk. Lastly, Calcium Scores above 100 indicate heart disease that needs immediate attention, as the 2 lines rapidly cross the dotted line into high risk.
Who most benefits from a Heart Calcium Scan? Here are some guidelines that will help. A Heart Calcium Scan may be most valuable if you are:
A woman 50 years young or wiser, or
A man 40 years young or wiser
And you have any of the following risk factors:
So now you know the value of the Heart Calcium Scan! Spread the word! Those of you who are in the Los Angeles area can purchase your scan on this site and get your test at LA BioMed with Dr Budoff’s Team! For everyone else in the US, feel free to reach out to us and we’ll help you find a location near you. My email is van@trineOMICS.com
Together we will prevent heart attacks through precision, consumer centered healthcare!
trineOMICS Co-Founder and CEO Bob Trine (right of image) with member of Dr Budoff's Team at LA BioMed
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