Q. I'm wondering if I should get a test to check my calcium score. I'm 52 and in good health. My LDL cholesterol level is normal (97 mg/dL), but my father had a heart attack in his late 40s.
A. The artery-clogging plaque that builds up inside the heart's arteries contains cholesterol, inflammatory cells, scar tissue, and calcium. A coronary artery calcium scan (often called a calcium score) uses a special type of CT scan to look for that calcium, which is then quantified on a scale from zero to over 1,000. A score of zero indicates no calcified plaque. The higher the score, the more plaque is present. Findings from large studies link higher calcium scores to a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke.
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About the Author
Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
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