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The risk of cardiovascular disease increases with age. Women above the age of 55 and men above the age of 45 are at a greater risk of developing atherosclerosis. Witnessing the surge of heart disease cases is more evidence that people should be aware of the preventive measures to reduce the risk of heart-related complications. So, we want you to know some heart attack prevention tips.
Calcium deposits in coronary arteries are considered shadow markers of atherosclerosis, wherein atherosclerosis is the disease process of fat deposit formation in blood vessels, leading to a heart attack. Higher calcium deposits on the walls of coronary arteries indicate a higher chance and burden of atherosclerosis in coronary arteries, thus increasing the risk of blood vessel narrowing, and clot formation, leading to heart attack and stroke. It is a common practice among women and the elderly to take calcium supplements for bone health. This often leads to a common misconception that such supplements can lead to increased calcium deposits in blood vessels. However, there is no data to support such possibilities, and it is safe to take calcium supplements.
As prevention is always better than cure, there are various clinical assessment tools to assess one’s risk of heart attack due to atherosclerosis, like Framingham Risk Score and Raynaud’s scoring system. These tests are not very accurate and can predict only about 60 percent of situations. However, a majority of the people can become victims of heart attack despite the clinical scoring system not indicating risk.
There is a constant search for a more objective tool that can predict heart attack in a person.
A coronary calcium scoring scan helps identify calcium in the coronary artery, indicating the burden of atherosclerosis. If a person has more calcium in the coronary artery, it indirectly indicates a higher possibility of more blockages due to atherosclerosis. In general CT scan score is between 0 to 3. Score 3 means a higher risk of heart attack, 2 is moderate, and 1 is considered a mild risk of a heart attack. More than moderate scoring is an alarm to escalate the case to further evaluation.
In a CT coronary angiogram, the radio-opaque substance like iodine-containing contrast material is injected. It visualizes the lumen of coronary arteries, revealing segments of the blood vessel narrowed due to fat and calcium deposits. This method can be one of the tools for early assessment of the risk of a heart attack. The lead from CT coronary scan then guides the patient to the treating doctor for subsequent further evaluation by invasive coronary angiogram with the intent to treat the condition.
Coronary calcium score and CT coronary angiogram should be used judiciously. These tests should always be performed under the advice of a doctor, as it involves the risk of radiation exposure.
Coronary calcium scores only assess calcium deposits in the coronary artery. However, calcium deposits in other blood vessels indicating a high risk of heart disorder, go unnoticed. Coronary calcium scores sometimes pick up calcium readings from valves and may be misleading.
Whereas, CT coronary angiogram involves radiation exposure. At our hospital, we do not prefer to use this technique more frequently in a single patient and is always performed under the guidance of a treating cardiologist.
As we age, preventive methods should always be a priority than a cure. New age technology is a boon as it helps in the early detection and prevention of the onset of any health condition. So, it drastically increases the lifespan moving toward a healthier lifestyle.