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Cardiac Calcium Score Screenings

Baylor Scott y White Heart and Vascular Hospital - Dallas

Non-invasive CT scan can detect heart disease in minutes

Cardiac calcium score scans are non-invasive tests used to check for the buildup of cholesterol and hardened, or calcified, plaque on the walls of the arteries in the heart. These tests can detect coronary artery disease before any symptoms occur to determine the severity of any pre-existing coronary artery disease.

Cardiac calcium scoring can:

  • Identify if you have coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Determine the severity of the heart disease
  • Help predict if symptoms will develop

During the test, a computer tomography (CT) scanner rotates around your body while a powerful computer creates detailed cross-sectional images, like slices, of the inside of your body.

If calcium deposits are present, they show up as bright white spots on the scan images. After a few minutes, you will have a cardiac calcium score that helps you estimate your heart attack risk.

Watch the video to learn more about what to expect at a cardiac calcium score exam

Patient undergoing CT scan to determine cardiac calcium score

Who should get a cardiac calcium score test?


Cardiac calcium scoring is recommended for men ages 40 to 65 and women ages 45 to 70 with one of the following risk factors:

  • Diabetes
  • Current smoker
  • Obese
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Cholesterol level greater than 160/LDL
  • Blood pressure greater than 140/90

If you are outside the recommended age range, a physician order is required. Younger adults may be tested if one or more of their close relatives has or had early coronary artery disease.

Please note: Requirements dictate the cardiac calcium score test results must be sent to a primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, an assigned physician will review your results.

What does my cardiac calcium score mean?

The higher the cardiac calcium score, the more plaque you have in your heart's arteries, which increases your chance of having a heart attack.

Your cardiac calcium score will guide you and your provider in needed treatment to prevent plaque buildup in your heart in the future.

To lower your chance of getting coronary artery disease:

  • Eat well
  • Quit smoking
  • Ejercicio
A woman smiles at a physician who has his outstretched hand on her shoulder

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of heart attacks

While the symptoms and signs of coronary artery disease (CAD) are noticeable in the advanced state, most individuals with coronary artery disease show no evidence of disease for decades. The disease progresses before the first onset of symptoms, often a "sudden" heart attack, finally arises. CAD occurs when plaques build up and narrow your arteries, called atherosclerosis. The plaques consist of fat, cholesterol and calcium.

Heart scans, like those offered at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital - Dallas, use non-invasive techniques to measure the amount of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries in your heart, which supply your heart with blood. Having calcium in the walls of your arteries could mean that you have coronary artery disease.

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