This 30-second test easily and accurately measures hidden coronary plaque by assessing arterial wall calcium. Calcium occupies 20% of the volume of all plaque that can line the coronary arteries. Measuring calcium can therefore be an easy, safe method of quantifying total plaque. The more plaque you have, the greater your risk for heart attacks.
Critics have suggested that this test measures only “hard,” or stable, plaque. This is untrue. The CT heart scan measures total plaque, including hard, stable plaque and the “soft,” less stable plaque that is more likely to trigger a heart attack. The result is reported to you as a “score”; higher scores indicate more plaque is present.3-5 (More information on the significance of various scores, as well as a listing of all heart scanners in the US, can be found at www.trackyourplaque.com.)
Had Mr. Clinton undergone a heart scan several years before he required bypass surgery, his doctors may have uncovered a high score of greater than 400, or possibly even one measured in the thousands (a normal score is zero). This information may have allowed Mr. Clinton and his physicians to implement a powerful program to help prevent or reverse heart disease and avert the need for future cardiac procedures. Unfortunately, few hospitals routinely offer preventive strategies such as the CT heart scan, instead focusing on major cardiac procedures to treat life-threatening catastrophes.