Don’t be shocked if your doctor now wants you to get this test.
For years we were told the best way to predict our risk of a heart attack was cholesterol and blood pressure.
Well now there is a new sheriff in town, and it’s an even better predictor of your risk of a major cardiac event.
The test is called a Cardiac Artery Calcification (CAC) score. It is done with the ultra-fast CT scan and it detects build-up of bone-like minerals in your heart arteries.
In short, it shows the hardening of the arteries that is atherosclerosis which is long-term and chronic inflammation of the artery walls.
Calcium and other minerals attach to the artery walls and create plaque pockets. If these break off, the blood clots can be deadly.
Blood clotting is technically called thrombosis. When they break off and go to the brain and they block blood flow, they can cause a stroke.
When they stop blood flow to the heart, it can kill heart muscle when it isn’t getting blood to this major muscle.
The other major cardiac event is called V-fib which is an electrical problem in the heart, where the heartbeat becomes so irregular that it cannot pump blood to the body. This is what doctors call Cardiac Arrest.
When plaques break off in the heart muscle, it can create a sudden and painful heart attack, and if enough of the blood flow is stopped it can create a major heart attack often referred to as a widow maker.
Here is a video that shows just how devastating a major heart attack is and why knowing your CAC score may be the most important number you need to know about your health:
Heart attacks are still the leading killer in America. One in four Americans who die, do so because of heart failure.
How many of the 610,000 people who died last year of heart attacks would still be alive today if they knew that their arteries were blocked?
The idea of the CAC score has been studied since the 1980s. But just because we knew it existed it didn’t mean that we knew what it meant or how much buildup was dangerous.
The American Heart Association finally announced in June of 2000:
“Coronary calcium is part of the development of atherosclerosis; it occurs exclusively in atherosclerotic arteries and is absent in the normal vessel wall.”
But despite this knowledge, the CAC test was not widely utilized, but thankfully that is starting to change.
The test should be done over a couple of years to see the progression of plaque buildup. Here is the scoring:
- Coronary calcium score 0: No identifiable plaque. Risk of coronary artery disease very low (<5%)
- Coronary calcium score 1-10: Mild identifiable plaque. Risk of coronary artery disease low (<10%)
- Coronary calcium score 11-100: Definite, at least mild atherosclerotic plaque. Mild or minimal coronary narrowings likely.
- Coronary calcium score 101-400: Definite, at least moderate atherosclerotic plaque. Mild coronary artery disease highly likely. Significant narrowings possible.
- Coronary calcium score > 400: Extensive atherosclerotic plaque. High likelihood of at least one significant coronary narrowing.
The bad news is when your numbers get progressively worse. That means you are getting at greater risk and major lifestyle change is needed.
But if you have no buildup, you are doing great.
The good news is that you can reverse the hardening of the arteries. Increasing vitamin K and getting more magnesium in your diet can begin the process of dissolving these plaque deposits.
It doesn’t mean that you need to suddenly only eat a plant-based diet. People have found that a properly balanced keto diet can also reduce a high CAC score.
The key is not to panic. A high number does not mean you are going to die tomorrow. It is a signal that you need to make some changes and you need to start researching the best way to take charge of your health based on new information.
If your doctor doesn’t give this test, look around. You can get it done without a prescription and in my city, I can get it done for $50 and just a few minutes.