Im­por­tant health test gets to heart of risk

The Daily Examiner - - HEALTHY LIVING -

WHAT’S your coro­nary artery calcium score?

If you don’t know, you could be un­aware of your risk of a heart at­tack.

Syd­ney cardiologist Dr Ja­son Kaplan says it’s one of the most im­por­tant pre­ven­ta­tive health tests avail­able be­cause it shows the level of cal­ci­fied plaque in the ar­ter­ies, a red flag for car­dio­vas­cu­lar disease.

The Car­diac So­ci­ety of Aus­tralia and New Zealand agrees, call­ing the test “ro­bust” for pre­dict­ing car­diac prob­lems.

Calcium lev­els in the ar­ter­ies in­crease over time as they nar­row and harden from plaque build-up. This can lead to chest pain from the heart not get­ting enough blood or oxy­gen (aka angina) or a com­plete block­age of the artery – a heart at­tack.

About 54,000 Aus­tralians have a heart at­tack each year, with more than 8000 dy­ing as a re­sult, and car­dio­vas­cu­lar disease af­fects about 4.2 mil­lion peo­ple.

The test hit the head­lines ear­lier this year when the ar­te­rial calcium lev­els of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump were re­vealed.

His score of 133, while not un­usual or high-risk for a white male in his 70s, does in­di­cate that heart disease is present. The test also re­vealed the disease’s pro­gres­sion over time – in 2009 Trump’s score was 34 and by 2013 it had risen to 98.

Dr Kaplan says the test can re-cat­e­gorise pa­tients from mod­er­ate risk to high risk of a heart event, which can be life­sav­ing.

“We can give high-risk peo­ple bet­ter preven­tion strate­gies sooner,” he ex­plains.

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