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A Smarter Way to Check for Heart Disease


BY THE EDITORS OF MEN'S HEALTH, 05/28/2015

For years, doctors used to make guys sweat about their heart health—literally. A brief but intense run on a treadmill while hooked up to a bunch of wires and electrodes would assess your heart’s response to exertion. 

The problem? The results were sometimes inaccurate, leading to additional tests.

Today there’s a smarter way to check for heart disease: It’s called a coronary calcium scan of your arteries.

 

“The calcium score blows all the other predictors out of the water,” says Men’s Health cardiology advisor John Elefteriades, M.D., director of the Aortic Institute at Yale. “It’s so accurate that everything else pales by comparison.”

Here’s how it works: The noninvasive procedure takes 10 minutes and involves having a CT scan that looks for calcium buildup in your arteries.

Your calcium score, typically ranging from zero to 1,000, reveals whether you have coronary artery disease or are likely to develop it.

The lower your score, the lower your risk of having a heart attack or dying of coronary heart disease in the next three to five years.

Now for the fine print: Generally, the coronary calcium scan is recommended only for men who are 50 or older. Plus, those few minutes spent in the scanner will set you back as much as $300, since the test isn’t always covered by insurance.

 

If you do opt to have the test and your score is high, your doctor may recommend taking medications or making changes to your diet and exercise habits to help keep you from keeling over.