Important health test gets to heart of risk
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.