CT Scans and Heart Disease

CT scans, according to new research published in Radiology, may help identify heart attack risk in patients who don’t have typical signs in their cholesterol tests and blood pressure readings.

CT scans can produce 3-D pictures of the heart and veins, which may show narrowing of the arteries. Other kinds of tests for heart health can involve more exposure to radiation or may be more invasive. Traditional tests often require recovery time for patients, where CT scans do not.

A large-scale government-funded direct comparison of CT scans with more traditional kinds of tests found that the CT scans seem to be just as accurate as other kinds of tests. These results hold out hope for a safer way to test and diagnose heart disease.

Researchers also feel that CT scans may be better first-line tests for identifying patients who don’t have symptoms or risk factors that would lead physicians to call for the more invasive tests. These patients might not be aware that they need to change their lifestyles or to follow up with their health care providers, because they are not aware of the level of heart damage they’re living with.

A safer, simpler way of testing might help identify these patients at an earlier stage. For many Americans, the first sign of heart disease is a heart attack. Identifying patients who need to make changes before that point could make a difference.

Heart disease is the top cause of death in the United States. These lifestyle changes may reduce the risk:

  • Stop smoking, or don’t start.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid processed foods and eat more vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Sleep about eight hours a night.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Have the health tests your health care provider recommends.

These are good lifestyle choices for everyone — no need to wait for test results to make these changes!