Once you reach the age of forty, annual physicals are a first line of detection for risk factors of cardiovascular and other life-threatening diseases. Typically your doctor will give you a standard battery of tests designed to look for factors that may put you at risk for cardiovascular disease down the road. Unfortunately, most doctors do not perform a comprehensive test that looks at numerous potential markets of heart disease.
Coronary computerized tomography (CT) Scans
New methods and procedures are being discovered and experimented with constantly find better ways of predicting the true threats of cardiovascular disease suddenly ending an individual’s life with a heart attack or sudden death. While standard blood tests give us feedback on the presence of certain risk factors, they do not give us a very good picture of how much buildup is already taking place within arteries, how blood flow is being affected, and how many potential “hot spots” are present where plaque might rupture to cause a sudden ischemic event. Thus more and more doctors are letting their patients know about such examinations as the coronary CT scan.
A computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scan is done by taking a number of CT “slices” of a person’s body and internal organs from various angles and then reassembling them with a computer into a three-dimensional image of the organ(s) concerned. The procedure is noninvasive (meaning they don’t have to put anything into your body), though it does carry some risk because of the higher radiation level than would happen with standard X-rays (approximately equal to one hundred fifty chest X-rays). These risks, however, are usually outweighed by the valuable information the examination gives the patient.
When this is done specifically to detect coronary heart disease, the CT scan will give feedback on the presence, location, and amount of calcified plaque in the arteries. The findings can then be easily turned into a calcium score that indicates the amount of plaque that has accumulated as well as a means to monitor your plaque reversal. This calcium score will also help predict the likelihood of a cardiovascular incident happening in your future.
Some of the limitations of this exam are that for people under the age of fifty, their atherosclerosis may not yet have calcified enough to be detected by a CT scan; however, new CT scan software is able to detect soft plaque that is not yet calcified. Also, very few health insurance companies cover this exam at the present time. And for any given calcium score, there is not yet a prescribed line of treatment to specifically address that level of risk. Nor can a specific number tell you just how much blockage you have at present, only the statistical likelihood of it being present. On the other hand, any amount of plaque can lead to a rupture and a heart attack; however, unstable plaque is more likely to rupture compared to stable plaque. You may have a high calcium score that indicates significant plaque; however, if the inflammation is controlled as indicated by a low CRP and low LP PLA2 test, the plaque is table and significantly less likely to rupture.
While cholesterol tests will give you a snapshot of your current diet and lifestyle, it will not give you a cumulative total of how your past lifestyle might still be affecting you today. A CT scan, on the other hand, will. No matter what you are ding toady, a CT scan will show the cumulative effects of your lifetimes’ lifestyle in how much plaque has built up over your years, and thus it gives you a much better picture of your actual risk than standard blood tests will.
If you want to significantly increase the probability that you will stabilize and reduce your plaque, you should do what you need to in order to lower your LDL, number below 70 and raise your HDL number above 60, as well as lower the CRP and PL PLA2 numbers to normal. Also have all risk factors checked and modified by following the strategies recommended by expert doctors. Have all positive risk factors rechecked until they are in normal range.