A closer look at heart disease risk
Coronary artery calcium scans can help identify dangerous plaque buildup.
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.