The Heart Test You Absolutely Need to Have

by Brenda Williams

Posted on Thursday 9th of October 2008

Today heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Many fatal heart attacks occur suddenly with absolutely no warning. These are often due to the blockage of a major coronary artery due to a buildup of plaque. Commonly called “hardening of the arteries”, it is medically known as atherosclerosis.

The plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries. This narrows the passage through which blood and oxygen flow to the heart. The latest medical research has discovered that contained with this plaque are calcium deposits. The calcium does not cause the plaque but serves as a red flag to indicate the presence of plaque. There is absolutely no relation between the presence of calcium in plaque and the intake of calcium in milk, milk products or vitamin supplements.

In response to these findings, a new test has been developed called the Ultrafast CT Scan. The test identifies the presence of calcium in the arteries early enough to give your physician time to start preventive care.

The test was developed in the l980’s and takes computer images of the pumping heart, which reveal the presence of calcium in the coronary arteries. The scan is twenty times faster than the normal CT. It originally started at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York. After the installation of the two million dollar machine, Dr. Alan Guerci began an aggressive testing program. After considerable study he established a direct correlation between the presence of calcium and the risk of a heart attack.

There are other tests, which can determine coronary blockage. However, the advantage of the Ultrafast CT scan is that it can detect the presence of plaque at the very early stages, which the other tests may miss. And the Ultrafast CT is also less expensive than most of the other tests.

Another advantage of the Ultrafast CT is that the testing is really ultrafast. One does not even need to remove any clothing. You simply lie down on a table. Then you are rolled under a ring, which takes multiple x-rays of your heart. It can take one x-ray every tenth of a second, which allows it to “freeze” the beating heart and detect calcium in the coronary arteries. The test lasts less than ten minutes.

This test is very effective for patients over fifty years old. The accuracy rate is almost 100% as there are larger calcium deposits in the plaque of older people. And these are the patients who are at the greatest risk for heart attack.

Despite the advantages of being less invasive, less expensive and more accurate than many other tests, the Ultrafast CT does have one disadvantage. That is, it is not always easy to get because not every medical facility has the equipment to perform the test. People in urban areas such as New York should have no problem but residents of rural areas may have difficulty locating a facility to perform the test. So having the test may involve travel. On the other hand, depending on the amount of travel required, the cost of the Ultrafast CT in comparison to other tests may still make the travel cost effective, especially when all of the other advantages are taken into consideration.

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