Cardiac computed tomography (CT) for Calcium Scoring uses special x-ray equipment to produce pictures of the coronary arteries to determine if they are blocked or narrowed by the buildup of plaque – an indicator for atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD). The information obtained can help evaluate whether you are at increased risk for heart attack.
The calcium that the scan is looking for is tied in with plaque. This is not the stuff you get on your teeth, but a different kind found in your arteries. It’s made partly of fat and calcium, and it’s not good for your heart. Plaque is waxy at first, and it builds up slowly. But over time, it can harden. You may hear doctors call this “calcified” plaque. It’s a problem for two reasons.
First, hard plaque in your arteries is like a clog in a pipe. It slows your blood flow. That means some parts of your body don’t get enough of the oxygen they need. If plaque collects in your heart’s arteries, you may feel chest pain and discomfort, called angina.
Second, that plaque can break open, which can lead to a blood clot. That could cause a heart attack.
The coronary calcium scan tells you how much calcified plaque is in your heart’s arteries. You and your doctor can take the results and decide if you need to make any changes to your medicine or lifestyle.
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