The Doctor Is In: Coronary Calcium Scan

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women. 

A simple heart scan is available, for less than $100, that can predict your risk of a heart attack. The scan only takes about 15 minutes, too, and the results are life changing. 

"My family has a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The reason I wanted to take this test is to find out if I have a high, medium or low risk of developing heart disease," 52-year-old Lisa Hengtgen tells us. 

She's at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital for a coronary calcium scan. It's a specialized X-ray that looks for blockages in the arteries. 

Cardiologist Dr. Karthik Ananth says when patients actually see what their heart is dealing with, it's very revealing. 

"So by measuring the calcium scan we are able to actually impact patients' lifestyle decision making because when patients see that calcium building up in their heart it inspires them to make the right choices in life. For example, quitting smoking; getting into a regular exercise program; losing weight."

A coronary calcium scan is for people who meet certain risk factors, such as a strong family history of heart disease, and risky levels of blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol. 

Lisa's cholesterol is high but she's already made big changes to be healthier. About two years ago she lost 35 pounds and she's kept it off by eating right and eating less. 

As she goes through the scan, the doctor is looking for calcified plaque potentially blocking blood flow. 

When the scan is scored, anything above 100 is linked to a higher risk of heart attack. Good news: Lisa's score is zero.

"I will still focus on diet and health. Just because it's a zero doesn't mean I can start eating all the bad foods again," she laughs. 

"Learning about your risk, particularly if you have a family history of early heart disease, particularly if you're a smoker, all of those things can predispose to earlier heart disease. So, knowing your risk of heart disease is valuable whether you're a man or a woman because it is the number one killer for both," says Dr. Ananth. 

Insurance might not cover the cost of the scan but it's under 100 dollars.