I had a heart scan a week ago. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time because of my familial history of heart disease, combined with the bazillion risk factors I have that indicate I’m likely to have a heart attack.
A summary of my risk factors:
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Type 2 Diabetes (but maybe I can lose this diagnosis soon!)
- High blood pressure
- Abdominal obesity
- First degree relative with heart disease
- Genetic risk factors, according to 23andme, that make me more susceptible to heart disease than other people in my demographic. Check it out(FYI- 23andme no longer offers this kind of health report – they’ve evolved by necessity, due to government intervention. But before they shut down these reports I made PDF copies of everything in my profile. I’m apparently also genetically vulnerable to Alzheimer’s, Atrial Fibrillation, Colorectal Cancer, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.)
So, when I say I’m trying to avoid having a heart attack, I’m pretty serious. It’s a legit concern for me.
I had heard about getting a coronary calcium scan (heart scan) done in order to get a calcium score – a direct measurement of the severity of heart disease. They measure the amount of calcified plaque buildup in your coronary arteries. I wasn’t sure how to do it – do I have to find a cardiologist? Do I have to convince my doctor to look at something other than my total cholesterol? I hate trying to convince doctors of things. Actually, I hate trying to convince anyone of anything. That’s why I’ve gone rogue and order my own damn tests. Anyway, I finally just googled it and found a local clinic that does heart scans for $99, direct to patient – no cardiologist required!
So I set it up for a couple days later. They instructed me: no caffeine or exercise the day of the test. Well, that was a long day with no caffeine, lemme tell you, but I managed. It’s essentially a CT scan of the heart, so there is some radiation involved. I didn’t care. I wanted the test, and I don’t plan on doing this very often. My results:
My coronary calcium score is 23. On a continuum starting at 0 (no plaque present) to scores in the hundreds for people with lots of plaque, 23 doesn’t sound so bad at first. This score correlates with “mild heart disease” (which doesn’t sound like good news to me), and my chance of having a heart attack is “moderate”. So, only moderately awful then.
The supporting materials go on to say:
The total calcium score of 23 is between the 90 and 100 percentile for females [my age]. This means that 90 percent of people this age and gender had less calcium than [me].
Hm…also less awesome than I would prefer.
And the notes from the doctor who evaluated the test:
1. A calcium score of 23 implies presence of definite at least mild atherosclerotic plaque with the risk of mild or minimal coronary arterial narrowings considered likely.
2. Small pericardial effusion with mildly prominent mediastinal lymph nodes. These correlate clinically.
Pericardial effusion means fluid around the heart. I don’t know if this is a lot bad or only a little bad.
At least I have a baseline. I’m hoping this can be reversed or at least stopped.