The Heart Saver CT screening for heart disease (also known as the UltraFast CT or Calcium Scoring CT) has been available for about 10 years now. This study looks for calcified plaque in the arteries of the heart. Plaque, put simply, is the fatty, waxy type of substance produced by the liver that proceeds throughout the bloodstream. You may also hear or read this referred to as cholesterol. Frequently, plaque will adhere itself to the walls of arteries and over time solidify. Then, it becomes known as calcified plaque. The Heart Saver CT looks specifically at the arteries of the heart searching for calcified plaque.
It is a reasonable test for those with the desire to satisfy their curiosity regarding the probability of future heart disease. The test takes about a half an hour and there are no needles or preparation involved. This study is NOT for someone with known heart disease. Since its purpose is to be a predictor of future disease, it would be a waste of money to do the test if you already know you have heart disease. The Heart Saver CT is an excellent tool when used properly.
In many instances, this study is done when a person is over the age of 35 and more likely over the age of 40. The cost can range from $100 to $300 and some insurance companies will cover this test. However, be prepared to pay out of pocket even if your insurance company will cover and then seek reimbursement. Many facilities that offer this study will not file your insurance for this particular test. The reason for lack of coverage is some insurance companies still consider this test experimental. If you have a family history of heart disease and / or high cholesterol then you should consider this test.
There is potential good and bad news about your results. If your calcium scoring result is zero, then congratulations. Zero is the perfect score meaning there is no indication of calcified plaque in the arteries of your heart. You do not have heart disease from atherosclerosis. However, any score higher than zero means that you do have heart disease. Many people do not understand this fact. Even though you have not had a heart attack, yet, an elevated calcium score means that someday you just might. Calcium score can range into the thousands of an unsuspecting victim. This person would be the epitome of a ticking time bomb. The type of person you hear someone telling about, “He was out mowing the yard and just dropped dead.” A score like that in itself makes this test a must do for anyone over the age of 45 with no known history of heart disease. Lives are saved because of it, but that is part of the good news.
Now for the bad news: Another thing many do not realize is while some insurance companies will not cover this test, they will consider it for future coverage and premiums. Again, any score higher than zero equals heart disease. Insurance companies do acknowledge this much, at least. It is important to keep in mind even if you are outwardly in apparent good health a calcium score of any number other than zero will damage your prospects for life insurance and reasonable insurance premiums. People are denied life insurance based solely on their calcium score with no other apparent health issues. While this is a good test as a predictor of future heart disease it comes with a potential price that you will not be informed of until it happens so be prepared.
If you decide to have a Heart Saver CT scan done and your score is higher than zero there is nothing that can be done to get rid of it. It did not happen overnight and it will not go away. Then the priority becomes to slow the momentum of plaque buildup by combating your cholesterol and optimizing those numbers. Often with proper treatment, the progression of disease can be significantly reduced. Medical technology today can slow the progression, but it cannot turn back the hands of time, yet.