February is Heart Month. Do You Know Your Risk for a Heart Attack?

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Imagine being able to determine your likelihood of having a heart attack before it happens without undergoing surgery.

Thanks to a cutting-edge technology at the Sentara Heart Vascular Center (SHVC) at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, you can. It’s called Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring (CAC) or Coronary Calcium Scoring.

Recent research shows a direct relationship between the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries and  the likelihood of a future heart attack. Many people with plaque or calcium deposits clogging their heart’s blood vessels do not have any symptoms or warning signs, yet they may be in danger of having heart attacks.

The Coronary Calcium Scoring exam is a non-invasive CT scan of the heart. The patient lies on his/her back on the CT table and EKG electrodes are placed on his/her chest to monitor the heart rate. From there, the scan takes a series of cross-sectional images of the heart to allow for early detection of heart disease.

A score can range anywhere from zero to more than 400. The lower the score, the lower the amount of plaque present and the lower likelihood of having a heart attack. The exam, which takes about 15 minutes to complete, is recommended for people who currently do not have any symptoms, but do have a moderate probability of having coronary artery disease. A physician’s referral is required.

While most insurance plans currently do not cover screening exams, for a nominal fee, you can have the peace of mind of knowing your risks. Contact your primary care physician today or search “Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring (CAC)” on sentara.com to find out more about this early detection screening for your heart.


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