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Second heart scan and heart attack risk

Posted Sep 12 2008 8:52am

At first, Joe felt disappointed, defeated, and frightened. After his heart scan, a radiologist at the center told him that his score of 264 was moderately high. He told Joe that he was at moderate risk for heart attack and that a nuclear stress test was going to be required.

This left Joe feeling confused. After all he'd had a heart scan 18 months earlier and his score was 278, 5% higher.

I reassured Joe that the radiologist had not been aware that Joe had a prior heart scan. The radiologist didn't know that Joe's heart scan score had actually been reduced.

In fact, Joe's risk for heart attack was not moderate--it is now very low, since his score was 5% lower. While growing plaque is active plaque, shrinking plaque is inactive plaque and thereby at far less risk for heart attack.

I wrote about this phemonenon in a previous Blog: When is a heart scan score of 400 better than 200? at http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2006_09_01_archive.html. When you've had more than one scan, the risk for heart attack suggested by the score takes a back seat to the rate of change of your score. In other words, even though Joe's score of 264 represented a moderate risk (of approximately 3% per year, roughly 30% over 10 years), this no longer held true, since it actually represented a 5% decrease over a previous score.

Joe's risk for heart attack is probably close to zero. ALWAYS view your second (or any subsequent) heart scan score in the context of your previous score, not in isolation.

Track Your Plaque newsletter subscribers: We will detail more of Joe's story in the coming January 2007 newsletter. If you'd like to read or subscribe to the newsletter, go to http://www.trackyourplaque.com/f_scanshow.asp.

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