ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. - It looks like a regular CT scan, but the same machine that does that can also do something not many people know about. It's a scan that could save your life, and it's called a coronary calcium scan.
"As the blood vessel walls build up cholesterol, lipids, and plaque, the body tries to heal it by forming calcium," said Dr. John Ververis, a cardiologist at Advent Health.
The scans tell doctors how much calcium has built up in your heart, which is a sign there could be other heart issues.
"A coronary calcium score can provide a lot of definite info as far as what their coronary risk is," said Dr. Ververis.
A score of zero means you're healthy with low risk for heart attack or stroke. Zero to 100 puts you at a mild risk. One-hundred to 400 puts you at moderate risk. A score over 400 means your coronary artery disease could be severe. The scan is mostly used for patients who are healthy but also have a few risk factors and aren't sure what the next steps are.
"Some patients are very hesitant to start statin therapy and they’re not sure. They’re on the fence. It can be a real useful measure to document whether they have disease or not."
This is the test that can tell them whether or not it's time to make some serious lifestyle changes. Doctors say there's no need to use it on people who have no risk factors or people who already know they have heart issues.
It takes about 15 minutes. You lie down, and there's no IV. It's just a quick scan of your heart.
"It is eye-opening for the patient to be in the office and tell them you have coronary artery disease."
Those five words can put you on the path toward a longer, healthier life.