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    Learn Your Heart Risk with Heart Scan

    R. Scott Starrett, MD, FACC, FSCAI Deaconess Heart Group 08/13/2018
    If you’re concerned about your risk for heart disease, a heart scan may be helpful for you. It’s been requested by many patients and physicians, and Deaconess is excited to now offer this new screening option to the community. Anyone (35 and older) can request the screening and it costs $49. As a physician, I know that this test has the potential to prevent heart attacks and save lives. I also know that it’s important for people to understand medical tests or screenings before having them. Here are the basics about a heart scan.
     
    What is a heart scan, and what does the test look for?

    A heart scan is a non-invasive, specialized x-ray test that captures images of your heart. The images help your doctor detect if you are at risk for coronary heart disease by measuring plaque buildup inside the arteries. Plaque is composed of fats, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the blood. Plaque inside the arteries of your heart can eventually build up and restrict or block the flow of blood to the muscles of the heart. The measurement of calcified plaque found with a heart scan may enable your doctor to identify possible coronary artery disease before you have signs and symptoms.

    Results of the heart scan may also indicate the need for lifestyle changes or medical treatment to decrease your chances of having a heart attack or other heart problem. 
     
    Who should get a heart scan?

    If you meet these guidelines, you may have an increased risk of coronary artery disease. A heart scan is most recommended for:
    • Men over age 40 or women over age 55
    • Those with a family history of coronary artery disease
    • Those who used to smoke or currently smoke
    • Individuals with a history of high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure
    • People who are overweight or have an inactive lifestyle
     
    However, to qualify for the test you must:
    • Not have a pacemaker
    • Be age 35 or older
    • Have no previous history of heart disease
    • Not had a heart scan in the past 5 years
     
    Are there any risks from a heart scan, and does it require any special preparation?

    Because a heart scan uses x-ray technology, the patient is exposed to radiation. The amount of exposure from this test is generally considered safe, however, radiation exposure is not recommended when there is no likely benefit to getting the scan.

    A heart scan requires no special preparation, injections, etc. You simply must avoid caffeine (and decaffeinated  coffee/tea), chocolate and smoking for 12 hours before the test.

    There usually aren't any special precautions you need to take after having a heart scan. You should be able to drive yourself home and continue your daily activities.

    Results will be available via MyChart or sent to your primary care physician. We recommend that after the test you follow up with your primary care doctor or cardiologist and discuss the results of any tests performed. We are happy to contact your doctor for you.
     
    How do I get a heart scan, and what does it cost?

    We’ve made heart scan registration very simple, allowing patients to schedule online quickly and easily.
    The test is available for only $49. This is a self-pay exam, so your insurance company will not be billed.  You will be provided with a receipt, which you may use if you wish to be reimbursed by your FSA, HSA or similar account. 
     
    How do I find out my risk for coronary artery disease?

    I have a tool that I recommend to help people determine their personal heart risk. The Framingham heart risk tool factors in several key concerns about heart risk, including cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking history. Choose the interactive risk score calculator that uses lipids once you go to the Framingham website. In my opinion, if you have a risk of greater than 10% in the next 10 years, you should consider having a heart scan test.

    I hope this information helps you make an educated decision regarding the heart scan test. To learn more, visit deaconess.com/heartscan
     
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