What is it? Can we measure it?


A simple X-Ray exam that should cost less than $90 is a very accurate measure of the amount of blockage which has developed in our heart arteries. Knowing that number can be an effective motivator for employing an even more effective prevention and reversal program in our lives.

As plaque forms in our arteries, it also becomes calcified, providing a marker that is easily measured by X-Ray. The more calcification, the more plaque, and generally the more serious we must become about managing this health hazard which can result in serious disability or death. 

A score of zero is is normal

1 to 99 indicates mild disease

100 to 399 indicates moderate disease

Over 400 indicates severe disease

Extensive guidelines on the use of this test are available from several sources. 

The score is not perfect. Plaque can occur without calcification, especially in younger individuals.

The test takes about 15 minutes and no dye is used. The radiation exposure is generally minimal, about equivalent to what we get from our surroundings in one year.  The scanners vary widely in the radiation dose, so we pick a good one. Pregnant women or those who may become pregnant should avoid the test. Under age 40, it may not be worth having.

An amazingly comprehensive review of this is contained in the Jan 2018 issue of JACC.

1.Coronary Artery Calcification and its Progression   What Does it Really Mean? Hiroyoshi Mori, Sho Torii, Matthew Kutyna, Atsushi Sakamoto, Aloke V. Finn, Renu Virmani

Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging Jan 2018, 11 (1) 127-142; DOI:10.1016/j.jcmg.2017.10.012

  1. Coronary Calcium Score and the New Guidelines Javier Sanz

Journal of the American College of Cardiology Oct 2015, 66 (15) 1669-1671; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2015.08.041