A heart scan score ranges from zero to a few thousand. Generally speaking, the higher the heart scan score, the higher the amount of plaque in the heart, and the higher a person's risk of having a heart attack. This plaque in your blood vessels is different from the plaque your dentist finds on your teeth. It's a substance made up partly of fat and calcium. Plaque begins in the blood vessels in a waxy state and slowly builds up. As time passes, it can harden and calcify, a term referred to as "calcified" plaque.
"The plaque built up usually is a consequence of genetics along with known risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking," said Ryan P. Daly, MD, a cardiologist at Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians who specializes in cardiac imaging. "The plaque over time gets worse if the factors are not controlled, and thus the calcium amount also grows. Sometimes we have had patients who have their calcium in the thousands of range when we measure it."
"The calcium score is more of a bird's eye view of what the coronary arteries look like," Dr. Daly said. "It does not indicate whether or not a patient has a blockage. The higher the number, the higher the patient's chances are of having a blockage."
Your family doctor can help you interpret the score and how it might impact your health. Together, you should discuss changes in what you eat, how much exercise you get and what medications you should take based on your heart scan results.