An image taken during a HeartScan test


How a quick calcium scan can reveal heart disease risk

  • HeartScan measures the plaque in your heart
  • Effective tool for determining risk of heart disease
  • The computed tomography (CT) scan costs $100

In preventive cardiology, we’d love an all-knowing crystal ball to predict future heart issues. That doesn’t exist, but a calcium-scoring HeartScan does. It is the best tool we have for determining the risk of underlying plaque build-up that could result in a heart attack.

As plaque ages, it calcifies. A HeartScan is a computed tomography (CT) test that uses X-ray technology to produce images of the inside of the body and provide a calcium score.

About half of all middle-aged adults have a calcium score of zero, which means the rest have an increased risk of heart disease. If you’d be willing to make changes based on your score, then a HeartScan may be right for you.

Who should consider a HeartScan? 

Anyone older than 35, with one or more of these risk factors for heart disease: family history of heart disease:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking

What can I expect at a HeartScan appointment?

You’ll lie still on your back on a movable table and follow breathing instructions, including holding your breath for a few seconds. The amount of radiation emitted by this CT scan is very low. It’s about the same as a mammogram or a chest X-ray. The whole examination will take between 15-30 minutes. Your doctor may get your results the same day as the test, but it can take longer.

How much does a HeartScan cost?

The test costs $100.  Typically, it is not covered by insurance but is reimbursable through a flexible health spending account or a health savings account.

What does the score mean? 

A score of zero shows you have a low risk of having heart disease or a heart attack in the next few years. The risk increases as your calcium score goes up. A score above 100 suggests a moderately high risk of heart disease. Depending on your score, your doctor may recommend exercise, diet changes or new medications, like a cholesterol-lowering statin. 


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