HELP! I Have a High Coronary Calcium Score – Now What?
Do you have a high coronary calcium score?
Many people have – coronary calcium scores are increasingly used to accurately identify the risk for future heart attack and death. And it can be a great tool, but often, those with a high coronary calcium score are left with – now what?
And if that sounds like you, you are in the right place.
Having a high coronary calcium score can be alarming. We have mountains of research that show if your coronary calcium score is high, you are at higher risk for future heart attack and death – and the higher the calcium score, the higher the risk.
And it’s not easy to hear that you are at a higher than average risk for the leading cause of death and disability. Heart disease is frightening – we all know of people taken too early from heart disease, whether in our family, networks, or celebrities.
And whether you’re surprised by having a high coronary calcium score – or the result just confirmed what you already suspected – knowing that you have a high calcium score is a rude awakening – a stark reminder of your mortality.
I understand the concern a high coronary calcium score often brings, but here’s the crucial point I don’t want anyone to miss.
A high coronary calcium score can also be a blessing – an early warning sign that it’s time to pay attention to your health. And it can also give you an opportunity to live the long and vital life you were meant to live.
About 25% of the time, the first sign of heart disease is someone dies – often with no or little warning. This is called sudden cardiac death and affects over 300,000 people a year in the US. And most of those people did not know they were at high risk for heart disease before they died.
But when you know your risk, you can take charge of your health.
Science tells us that up to 80% of heart disease is preventable – (and as a preventive cardiologist for over 20 years, I believe that percentage is even higher) – IF you optimize just ten essentials – the ten most impactful root causes of heart disease.
Before we get to what to do if you have a high coronary calcium score, I want to talk about two false beliefs about a high coronary calcium score.
1. Myth #1 – A coronary calcium score is an effective measure of your prevention strategy success.
A coronary calcium score is a poor measure of the effectiveness of a prevention strategy. The best reason to do a coronary calcium score is that we don’t know the risk for heart disease. But once we have answered that question – a high calcium score shows high risk – there’s usually no reason to do another. Whether someone is doing a great job with their prevention strategy – or a poor one – typically, calcium scores continue to increase with time. Most doctors don’t do a follow-up coronary calcium score if there is a history of having a high score in the past because there are no interventions that lower coronary calcium score.
2. Myth #2 – a high coronary calcium score means blockages in the heart arteries.
Although coronary calcium score and stress testing or angiograms are evaluating for coronary artery disease, they are different tests looking for different aspects of artery disease. A coronary calcium score is used to identify risk. Stress testing and angiograms evaluate for narrowing of the arteries that block blood flow. Although there is a modest correlation, they are not interchangeable studies.
What is the most important thing I can do if I have a high coronary calcium score?
Although your doctor may recommend a stress test or angiogram if you have a high calcium score, the most important thing you can do is lower your risk for future heart attack and death by healing your metabolism. And as we talked about earlier, that means optimizing the ten things science tells us can reduce the risk of heart disease by 80% – and add 12 or more years of healthy life – what I call the Healthspan 10.
The Healthspan 10 is:
1. Great blood pressure
2. Great cholesterol levels
3. Great blood sugar levels
4. A healthy weight
5. Regular physical activity
6. Healthy nutrition
7. Getting restorative sleep
8. Managing stress
9. Avoid toxins
10. Staying connected
If you have a high coronary calcium score, the most important thing to do is clear – lower your risk. And what to focus on is also clear – the Healthspan 10.
And if you’d like expert guidance on reducing the risk of heart disease by 80% – and adding 12 or more years to life – then we should talk because that’s what we do at HealthspanMD.
We help people who are at risk for heart disease get clear on where they are right now, what they need to do – and how – to optimize the ten factors that give them the best chance to avoid heart disease, but also stroke, cancer, dementia, and early death.
Schedule a strategy consultation with us to learn more about how we can help you.
Lead the best life,
R. Todd Hurst, MD, FACC, FASE