Calcium score may predict sudden death and heart disease

Memorial Hermann-Katy doctor Khilan Pindoria says he tries taking good care of his health because his father passed away suddenly when he was just a teenager. His father was only 52 years old.

Now, as a father to a young son himself, Dr. Pindoria wants to closely monitor his own heart health.

Pindoria says he had high cholesterol, and given his family history, his doctor recommended that he get a calcium score.

“Getting it at an age where I can start focusing on health, exercise, diet, which is improving my health but also focusing on my family,” Pindoria says that’s why he got the calcium score at age 37 instead of waiting later in life.

Interventional cardiologist with UT Health Houston and Memorial Hermann-Katy Dr. Wahaj Aman said not enough people know they can keep track of plaque buildup in their arteries with a basic CT scan to get the calcium score.

“Plaque can sometimes represent as calcium which is picked up by the CT scan. It’s a process that takes no more than a few minutes, it doesn’t require any contrast or IVs,” Aman explained.

Aman said this test is a “field that is still evolving” and he anticipates it will become a more common screening in the next five to ten years.

From 2016 to 2017, heart disease cost about $363 billion dollars a year in the U.S. after factoring in health care services, medicines, and lost productivity due to death, according to the CDC.

If you can catch plaque early and treat it early, you can get on the right medications, make the right lifestyle modifications, to ensure that the risk of having a heart attack is low and you’re less likely to end up with all those future doctors’ visits.

Aman said the calcium score screening costs between $150 to $200 (varies by location) but the results are priceless.

Some studies show it can predict your risk of sudden cardiac death and heart disease.

“They can say that with about 99% assurance,” Aman said. “There is no other test available in the world of cardiology that’s so robust at predicting events related to the heart as much as the coronary calcium score.”

Pindoria said his score was zero and that’s the best possible result.

“It not only gave me reassurance moving forward but also focuses my health on prevention,” Pindoria said.

To get the CT scan and know your calcium score, ask any primary care doctor or cardiologist to order the test for you.