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Heart attack: Simple test helps determine your risk

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Heart attack: Simple test helps determine your risk

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in this country. A cardiologist at Sacred Heart Hospital says a simple test called calcium scoring is the best way to predict your risk. While the procedure is simple it's not well-known.

Calcium scoring is a type of CT (computerized tomography) scan. It can reveal if you are developing hardening of the arteries, which puts you at risk for a heart attack. It takes less than 15 minutes and it doesn't hurt.

Cardiologist Dr. James Williams at Sacred Heart explains that when plaque forms in your arteries it's not just cholesterol. There are bits of calcium that show up, too.

Dr. Williams said, "So by finding out how much calcium there is, we have a good measure of how much plaque there is, which is a good measure. In fact the very best measure...of your risk of getting a heart attack."

Calcium scoring is not covered by most insurance and even as a physician Dr. Steven DeCesare hadn't heard of it. But with a strong family history of heart disease he wanted all the information he could get.

Dr. DeCesare said, "It's always a little scary when you get an abnormal test, but you know burying your head in the sand doesn't do you any good, that's for sure."

If your calcium score indicates you could have a plaque buildup you can make a treatment plan with your doctor.

Dr. Williams said, "We can slow, perhaps stop and even reverse the process with medicines we have today."

Dr. DeCesare takes good care of himself and might not have known about a plaque buildup in his arteries without calcium scoring.

"It's so easy to do that if it helps predict whether you're going to have a heart attack or not. It seems like a no-brainer," he said. "It's a shocker that it hasn't been covered by insurance as a screening test."

Right now a calcium score will cost you about $150. However at least one state, Texas, has mandated it has to be covered by insurance.