A heart scan can help detect early warning signs

While heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, the deadly condition can often strike without warning or symptoms. For many adults, however, there is a way to learn more about their heart health through a heart scan—a simple preventive screening designed to help gauge an individual’s risk of developing heart disease.

A heart scan is a computed tomography (CT) scan that measures the amount of calcified or hardened plaque buildup inside the coronary arteries. The scan is completed in just a few minutes and does not require a contrast dye injection. Reviewed and evaluated by a cardiologist, the series of images of the arteries and blood vessels reveals early warning signs of heart disease. Heart scans are intended for adults, age 40 to 75, who have one or more risk factors for heart disease, which may include:

• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Family history of heart disease, stroke or vascular disease
• Diabetes
• Smoking
• Obesity
• Other vascular disease

Based on your risk factors and medical history, your primary care provider can help determine whether you are a good candidate for a heart scan. And while the scan won’t tell definitively whether you will or won’t develop heart disease, it is a valuable and effective diagnostic tool for predicting whether future heart disease is possible. Depending on the results of the scan, the cardiologist may recommend additional tests and advise diet and lifestyle changes or medication to help lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.