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A Woman’s Heart, the CT Heart Scan

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Since I have several risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, my doctor recommended that I have a CT heart scan. While I had heard of a CT heart scan, I was not really familiar with exactly what a CT heart scan was or what benefit it provided.

What is it? Was it expensive? Invasive? What does it show? How will the results help me and my doctor? In other words, why should I have this test? Inquiring Mary wanted to know!

What is a CT heart scan?*

Simply put, a CT heart scan (also referred to as “computed tomography”) combines multiple X-ray images together with the use of a computer. The scan does not require you to have an IV. The result is a “picture” that provides your doctor with a very detailed view of your heart, arteries, pulmonary veins, coronary circulation, etc. Because the view is so detailed, the scan is able to show your doctor the amount of calcium deposits (plaque), if any, which are in or around your heart. The test is advertised as simple, quick, painless, and non-invasive. Since the CT heart scan can detect calcified blockages in the arteries (from atherosclerosis) before symptoms prevent themselves, it can be an excellent preventative diagnostic tool. As with most diseases, early detection and treatment can impact the long-term outcome of disease progression. Heart disease lends itself particularly well to treatment when detected early.

Research indicates that the coronary calcium scores provided by the CT heart scan are better in terms of predicting risk for heart disease than other diagnostic measurements, including HDL/LDL and total cholesterol count. The test score also provides a measurable, trackable risk index. A calcium score of zero indicates that you have no measurable calcium buildup in your arteries and therefore a low 5-year risk for heart disease. A higher score would indicate an increase in the risk level of a cardiac event.

It should be noted that the CT heart scan only detects calcified plaque, which is an indicator of heart disease. It will not detect soft plaque (non-calcified deposits). Soft plaque is also an indicator of heart disease.

Add a Comment6 Comments


Hi Linda... Thanks so much for your post! I just read your article and don't think that I've ever had a phosphate level checked or even had the doctor mention that phosphate could be a contributing factor to heart disease. It definitely gives me something else to talk to the doctor about when I go in the next time.

Thanks for sharing this info with us! Mary

September 8, 2009 - 1:53pm

I've always heard about cholesterol, but I was amazed to find that high phosphate contributes to cardiovascular disease. It triggers the formation of those calcified plaques. See
Thanks for the information about CT scans!

September 7, 2009 - 3:57pm

Hi Diane... I'm hoping diet/exercise will do the trick! I'd love to get to wear my "skinny" jeans again for the rest of my life! (I'm burning the fat jeans when I lose it.) Now, airbrushing away 20 years without using Photoshop may be a bigger challenge!

September 2, 2009 - 9:42am

Hi Diane... My calcium scores came back "perfect" (no calcium deposits/plaque build-up) which was a relief! We were very concerned because I am overweight (aren't many of us?), have a family history of heart disease, have very high cholesterol (for YEARS!) and am already post-menopausal. It was a great to know that I didn't have any problems already brewing that I was not aware of! :-) Based on the results, we elected not to start one of the cholesterol lowering drugs and to try to control it via diet/exercise and to continue to monitor for future changes. I make a point to "move" (either swim/walk/kayak depending on the weather) at least 3 times a week and am working on the diet (down about 10 pounds). Hopefully, this will do the trick and eliminate a few of the risk factors! (If only I could move the clock back 20 years and eliminate the age one too!)

September 1, 2009 - 12:55pm
(reply to Mary Kyle)

Hey, Mary,
Thanks for your answer. That's such good news!!! I also am overweight and working on it (have lost about 14 pounds so far), and I also have cholesterol that is higher than it should be. I think it's great that you might be able to control your risks with diet and exercise alone. That's a win-win situation, isn't it?
Now, if you figure out how to turn back that clock, be sure to let us know...

September 2, 2009 - 8:33am


Fabulous post! I didn't know exactly what a CT scan was. Will you add or change anything to your diet/exercise routine due to your results?

September 1, 2009 - 9:25am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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