Heart Attack & Coronary Artery Disease

Screening

Coronary artery calcium score (CACS) or heart scan provides pictures of your heart’s arteries (coronary arteries) with a CT scan and special software.


What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is atherosclerosis (plaque in artery walls) of the inner lining of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. A similar term, arteriosclerosis which means hardening or stiffening of the arteries is sometimes interchanged with atherosclerosis by some authors. CAD is a common form of heart disease and is a major cause of illness and death. CAD begins when hard cholesterol substances (plaque) are deposited within a coronary artery. The coronary arteries arise from the aorta, which is adjacent to the heart. The plaques narrow the internal diameter of the arteries which may cause a tiny clot to form which will obstruct the flow of blood to the heart muscle.

Coronary Heart Disease Slide Show Link: CLICK HERE


Symptoms of CAD include:

1. chest pain (angina pectoris) from inadequate blood flow to the heart;

2. heart attack (acute myocardial infarction), from the sudden total blockage of a coronary artery; or sudden death, due to a fatal rhythm disturbance.

In many patients, the first symptom of CAD is myocardial infarction or sudden death, with no preceding chest pain as a warning.

The heart scans looks for calcium in the coronary arteries, which can indicate blockages in the arteries. CACS may indicate if you have a higher risk of having a heart attack or other problems before you have any obvious symptoms of heart disease.

The screening procedure is simple, painless, and non-invasive. You will be asked to lie on your back on an exam table. After applying gel to your neck, the technologist will move an instrument called a transducer on your neck to create images of the carotid arteries and assess the rate of blood flow within them.


Who should have a carotid artery/stroke screening

Anyone over age 50, or over age 40 with risk factors for stroke, carotid artery disease, or atrial fibrillation (also known as irregular heartbeat), should have a carotid artery/stroke screening.


How often to get a carotid artery/stroke screening

This is a personal decision based on your risk factors and previous carotid artery screening and atrial fibrillation screening results. Many patients chose to have annual carotid artery/stroke screenings as part of their regular healthcare regimen. Your primary care physician is a favorable source for assessing your risk.