Heart scan strongly recommended for some patients

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) — The American Heart Association has come out with updated guidelines for managing blood cholesterol to prevent a heart attack.

It’s now recommending a heart calcium scan for certain patients. A recent study shows these scans are effective in finding out if cholesterol lowering drugs are the right course of action.

“I want to know if there is a problem and I want to take care of it because I really don’t want to be on a run and possibly die,” said Brooke Fowler, patient. 

It’s a thought that has run through Brooke Fowler’s mind for the last 10 years. She doesn’t have any signs of a potential heart problem except one major risk factor, a strong family history.

“My grandfather had passed away having a triple bypass. My dad had multiple heart attacks,” said Brooke. 

The Sandy woman has taken proactive measures by seeing a cardiologist for the past nine years. 
And once she heard about the heart calcium scan, she jumped at the opportunity to have added peace of mind.

“The American Heart Association recently came out with some new guidelines with perhaps the strongest recommendation for coronary calcium scoring. It’s another piece of the puzzle that would tip the scale on whether to be on a statin,” said Dr. Drew Behunin. 

Cardiovascular specialist, Dr. Drew Behunin at St. Mark’s Hospital says the 10-minute heart CT scan can reveal calcium deposits. 

“And then take that information and compare it to a large database of people with similar age, sex, and race. We’re able to come up not just a score but how they compare to their colleagues,” said Behunin. 

That information can give you your risk for a heart attack.

Dr. Behunin says the scan can confirm prescribing statins, the drugs for lowering your cholesterol, but it can also tell him when not to prescribe them, according to a recent study among 14,000 patients.

“If your score was 0 or less than 100, statin therapy didn’t have the same bang for your buck. But the converse was true if your score was 100 they had a 50% reduction in heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death. I’m putting more weight on calcium scores not just to prescribe statins but perhaps withdraw them,” said Behunin.

“Knowledge is power, this is giving me insight to my body I wouldn’t normally have,” said Brooke. 

Brooke will know her results within a week. Behunin said if you are 45 or older with risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol you may be a good candidate for the test. Heart scans at St. Mark’s hospital run $69. Heart doctors believe health insurance companies will cover the cost of the screening in the near future.

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