Extensive Calcification

I got a CT calcium scoring exam. I’m so glad!

by Julia Austin
ARA Marketing Team

I’m really glad I got a CT calcium scoring exam for coronary artery disease (CAD).

I’ve been concerned that I might be accumulating plaque in my heart for a while, largely because I have a few of the risk factors. Full disclosure: I work for ARA in the marketing department and so I was aware of CT calcium scoring, a screening that helps radiologists determine how much plaque is in your coronary arteries.

In fact, I had written a brochure on CT calcium scoring, teaming up with ARA radiologists. So, I knew I was a candidate for the test. I’m getting close to 60, have a family history of CAD, my cholesterol is somewhat high, and I’m slightly overweight. But I exercise, eat a vegan diet, and do yoga, all which can lower your CAD risk. I feel fine! But still, I wondered.

CAD is a silent condition—it’s possible to have no symptoms until you have a coronary event (heart attack). That’s because, while plaque buildup is slow, blockage of the coronary arteries can be sudden. It varies in severity, from a slight discomfort in the chest to a deadly event.

So, when American Heart Month came last February, I decided to get a CT calcium scoring on Facebook Live.

Here I am with CT lead technologist Tabatha Weber. What a pro. I was able to stay in my street clothes and was done in five minutes.

Julia Austin gets a CT calcium scoring with technologist Tabatha Weber copy

CT calcium scoring results are typically sent by mail, but I decided to get mine on Facebook Live for educational purposes. I was anxious, because I knew I could have CAD. Dr. Robert Lieberman, an interventional radiologist at ARA, and I sat down in front of my scans.

Here we are talking about my results. The white dot Dr. Lieberman is pointing at is my plaque. As he explained, plaque shows up on CT because it’s got calcium in it, like bones. To be honest, I was a little shocked, and it took a minute to adjust to the idea that I have heart disease.

ARA radiologist explains CT calcium scoring

Dr. Lieberman told me my score was 46. Not terrible, he said. Not time to rush to the hospital. But it was definitely time to talk to my primary care provider, who was also sent a copy of my results.

Here is the scoring chart which is one of the metrics that you receive in your exam report:

CALCIUM SCORE        PRESENCE OF PLAQUE
0                                        No evidence of plaque
1-10                                   Minimal evidence of plaque
11-100                              Mild evidence of plaque
101-400                           Moderate evidence of plaque
Over 400                         Extensive evidence of plaque

My doctor sent me to a cardiologist, who explained that my score, while low, indicated heart disease. If left untreated, it could lead to a cardiac event, and not the kind I would want to attend.

My journey led to a prescription for a statin, which is a group of drugs that can lower the cholesterol level in your blood. Since then, I have upped my exercise, cut back on sugar, and lost a few pounds. Between that and medication, I feel like I’m taking care of my heart health.

I really recommend this scan! Check with your health care provider and discuss CT calcium scoring and how it might fit into your care. If it seems right, you can get one, even without a provider referral, at ARA for just $75. It’s worth every penny. Call ARA to schedule at (512) 453-6100.

You can see me getting my scan here and consultation with Dr. Lieberman here.

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