Heart Health: Know Your Calcium Score - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Heart Health: Know Your Calcium Score

Posted: Updated:

ATLANTA (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of heart attack in the United States. To prevent it, doctors are now taking a new interest in something they always knew was there.

Stewart Phinizy is a real estate shark. In the business for 45 years, he knows all there is to know about selling, but it was the state of his health that came as a surprise.

"I never thought that I had any issues with my health," Phinizy told Ivanhoe.

But there was an issue, his arteries.

"They said looks like you have some blockage," Phinizy explained. "I wasn't feeling bad, this is the scary part, I wasn't really feeling bad."

Cardiologist Dr. Sheldon Litwin said that's not uncommon.

"A heart attack can be the first symptom in somebody that didn't have any warning signs before it," Sheldon Litwin, M.D., Chief of cardiology at Georgia Health Sciences University told Ivanhoe.

That's why he said getting your calcium score checked is so important.

"Plaque is usually composed of cholesterol but there are also some components, some pieces of calcium that often develop within those plaques," Dr. Litwin explained.

Like cholesterol and fat, calcium can build up on the arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart. Traditional testing like stress tests, require severe blockage to come out positive, but the calcium score test allows doctors to detect plaque in the vessels at a very early stage. The non-invasive five-minute test uses a CT scan to better estimate a patient's heart attack risk and gauges the benefit of certain heart treatments, like statins.

A new study in the Lancet found patients who had no symptoms of heart disease but did have a buildup of calcium (even those with low cholesterol) had twice the risk for heart attack or stroke and four times the risk for heart disease than those with a calcium score of zero.

"Somebody who has a calcium score of zero, the chance over the next 5 years of having a heart attack is well under 1 percent probably less than half of 1 percent," Dr. Litwin said.

While a normal calcium score is 200, Dr. Litwin said depending on your age, a score of 100 could be alarming. He believes this test could ultimately save lives.

"It's going to be unavoidable as we age, but the goal is to slow the process down as much as we can," Dr. Litwin said.

As for Phinizy, he had a score of 125 and needed surgery.

"I was expecting to have one stent at my age and I have three," Phinizy concluded.

It's a simple test with a lot of power.

The test is recommended for men over 45 and women over 55. Dr. Litwin said the best way to avoid a high score is to maintain a normal body weight and watch your salt intake.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

BACKGROUND: Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CHD is also called coronary artery disease. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women.

Coronary heart disease is caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries to your heart. This may also be called hardening of the arteries.

  • Fatty material and other substances form a plaque build-up on the walls of your coronary arteries. The coronary arteries bring blood and oxygen to your heart.
  • This buildup causes the arteries to get narrow.
  • As a result, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop. (Source: PubMed Health)

CALCIFIED ARTERIES? According to the Framingham Heart Study of the National Institutes of Health, nearly half of all coronary deaths affect people with no history of heart disease symptoms. For them, a fatal heart attack or sudden death is the first and last hint of a problem. Calcium (along with fat and cholesterol) is a major part of plaque. Calcium scores range from zero (no detectable plaque) to several thousand (extensive plaque). (Source: The New York Times)

TESTING YOUR CALCIUM SCORE: The procedure saves lives by detecting heart disease early enough to allow intensive therapy -- with cholesterol-lowering drugs, for example -- to keep it in check. Studies have shown there are no 'false positive' scans, because calcium deposits turn up in coronary arteries only when they are associated with plaque.

It is frequently done at commercial imaging centers, using a CT scan. Any calcium deposits will stand out clearly. After the scan, software analyzes all the images and calculates a cumulative calcium score based on the size and density of the deposits. The results are immediately available. A study published in the Journal of Circulation found calcium scans to be a better predictor of coronary events than looking at conventional risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol. ( Source: Journal of Circulation, The New York Times)

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Amy Warlick
Georgia Health
awarlick@georgiahealth.edu

  • Medical News HeadlinesMedical News HeadlinesMore>>

  • Hope For Lanie: Curing SMA

    Hope For Lanie: Curing SMA

    Thursday, April 17 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-17 21:15:09 GMT
    SMA attacks the body's motor neurons and causes paralysis. There is no cure, but for the first time doctors are studying an experimental therapy that targets more than just symptoms.more>>
    SMA attacks the body's motor neurons and causes paralysis. There is no cure for SMA but for the first time doctors are studying an experimental therapy that targets more than just symptoms, it targets mutated SMN genes, which are responsible for SMA.more>>
  • Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-16 21:15:09 GMT
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
  • Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Friday, April 11 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-11 21:15:07 GMT
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a rare type of melanoma that targets the eye. It can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a type of melanoma that targets the eye. It affects about 2,000 people a year in the United States. Although rare – it can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
  • Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Thursday, April 10 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-10 21:15:09 GMT
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
  • Pedaling For A Cure

    Pedaling For A Cure

    Wednesday, April 9 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-09 21:15:09 GMT
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
  • Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Tuesday, April 8 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-08 21:15:13 GMT
    CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Eric Robinson alive after he went into cardiac arrest. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
    A year ago, while jamming with his son's band, Eric Robinson went into cardiac arrest. CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Robinson alive. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
  • Helping High Risk Hearts

    Helping High Risk Hearts

    Monday, April 7 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-07 21:15:09 GMT
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
  • Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Friday, April 4 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-04 21:15:07 GMT
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
  • Predicting Bad Hearts

    Predicting Bad Hearts

    Thursday, April 3 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-03 21:15:09 GMT
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner.more>>
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. And 600,000 die of heart disease. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner; and they did it by pure accident.more>>
  • Giving Shannon A Voice Of Her Own

    Giving Shannon A Voice Of Her Own

    Wednesday, April 2 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-02 21:15:05 GMT
    More than half a million children under age 15 has a severe communication disorder impairing their ability to speak or communicate with others. Now, advances in technology are giving them a voice—some for the first time.more>>
    More than half a million children under age 15 has a severe communication disorder impairing their ability to speak or communicate with others. Now, advances in technology are giving them a voice—some for the first time.more>>
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.