The Doctors: Heart Attack Risk Test
Thomas is 44 and says he is healthy, but heart problems run in his family. He wants to know if there’s a test he can take to evaluate his heart attack risk.
The Doctors sent him to Cedars Sinai Medical Center to meet with Dr. Daniel Berman and get the answers he is looking for. Dr. Berman said that Thomas is a little young for the test, but his family history makes it worth exploring.
The Doctors: Coronary Calcium Scan
The test is called a Coronary Calcium Scan, a non-invasive test that takes a picture of the heart.
The Doctors: Calcium Buildup Causes
Dr. Berman and Thomas joined Dr. Travis Stork in the studio. Dr. Stork asked why Dr. Berman used Coronary CT imaging to look for calcium buildup.
Dr. Berman explained that half of all heart attack and stroke patients have no idea they are at risk until a medical event occurs. Standard tests in doctor’s offices aren’t accurate enough to detect early heart disease.
Dr. Stork explained that plaque rupture can cause a massive heart attack, but your body naturally wants to protect cholesterol buildup by forming a calcium deposit over the plaque. As that builds up over time, it can minimize blood flow to the heart and brain.
Dr. Berman explained that cholesterol leaks into blood vessels and is seen as a foreign body by white blood cells, which surrounds the plaque with calcium. He recommends the test for men over 45 or women over 55, with at least one risk factor for Coronary Artery Disease. It does expose the patient to radiation.
The Drs TV: Coronary Calcium Scan Results
Dr. Daniel Berman said Thomas’s test results were completely normal. Thomas was relieved to get the good news. Dr. Berman said diet and exercise could prevent Thomas from ever having a heart attack or stroke.
Dr. Travis Stork called Thomas the model of good health. He added that if you are at risk for heart disease, you have to talk to your doctor about getting screened, because it can be silent until an event occurs, and sometimes that event is death.