Coronary artery calcium scans show heart health risks

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When you lose someone to sudden cardiac arrest, it makes you wonder how healthy your own heart is. Many factors and tests can determine that, and a coronary calcium scan is one of them.

FOX 2 producer Scott Brewer was told a few years ago by his doctor that his cholesterol was too high. When the 52-year-old isn't working, he's busy with his wife and three grown kids, working to stay healthy.

"I run a couple times a week, swim a couple times a month," he says. "[The medication] was low dosage, but he said my numbers were too high to be controlled by diet or exercise."

Scott's taking his cholesterol-lowering statin, continuing with life and his exercise. But then he gets another wakeup call - the shocking death of our seemingly healthy coworker, Ron Savage.

Ron died of cardiac arrest in late February, and it was later learned his widow maker, a main heart artery, was blocked. Suddenly Scott was wondering, how healthy is my heart?

That's what brought us here, to the Providence Heart Institute. Scott is having a heart scan to learn his coronary calcium score.

The scan is super quick. It's a CT scan, like an x-ray, that takes dozens of  pictures of the heart in very thin sections. The goal is to find early stages of heart disease in the form of hardened calcium. It's called Atherosclerosis.
"Atherosclerosis is plaque buildup. It's a soft plaque that, over decades, calcifies," explains Chief Cardiologist Shukri David. Even before the scan is complete, Dr. David spots a problem. A closer diagnostic look shows white specks of calcium in the coronary arteries. 

What's puzzling is that Scott is considered low risk; his only risk factor is his high cholesterol. But, this scan proves he needs to keep taking his statin.

"As far as calcium score, yours is a one. It's very mild," Dr. David tells Scott.

So what's next? Scott soaks it all in and knows he needs to keep a closer watch on his cholesterol.

"Knowing is obviously better than not knowing," he says.

"What's important is to know that it's there," says Dr. David. "Then it's a lifetime treatment; you're never going to make it go away.

Scott has his calcium scan done at Providence. It can also be done with other health systems, too. You will need a doctor's referral, and then the scan costs about $100 on average out-of-pocket.

You can learn more about coronary artery calcium scoring online here at or by CLICKING HERE.