A closer look at heart disease risk

Coronary artery calcium scans can help identify dangerous plaque buildup.


Image: © blueringmedia/Getty Images

Too much plaque can restrict blood flow in arteries, but it's often hard to diagnose.

Predicting heart disease has never been an exact science. Some factors — such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels (especially LDL or "bad" cholesterol), diabetes, and smoking — can help predict future risk. But the presence of atherosclerosis, the disease underlying most heart attacks, is not always easy to spot. That's where a coronary artery calcium (CAC) scan may come in handy. It measures the amount of calcium in the heart's arteries, high levels of which are associated with heart disease.

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