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Calcium Scores Help Detect Heart Disease Early

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Mar 05 2012 04:50:33 AM CST
Updated On: Mar 05 2012 11:23:35 AM CST

On the fifth day of each month WCYB partners with Wellmont Health System to bring you all the facts about women's heart disease.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -

On the fifth day of each month WCYB partners with Wellmont Health System to bring you all the facts about women's heart disease.

This month we found out how one number can give you insight into your own heart health, and maybe even save your life.

She had no symptoms and no signs. Patty Sausser felt great when her husband handed her a postcard encouraging people to learn their calcium scores. "It said to give the card to a family member or a friend, and he said, 'I think you aught to go do that, and I said why? I feel fine!'" Sausser told News 5 Monday.

But Sausser gave in to a 15-minute CT scan. The non-invasive machine reads how much early cholesterol plaque is built up inside your artery walls and gives you what's called a calcium score.

Dr. Keith Kramer, a cardiologist with Wellmont explained, "a calcium score of zero means there's none detected, no cholesterol plaque detected. But as the score becomes higher and higher, it's referenced against the age of the patient as well as the sex of the patient."

Sausser's score is 502.39. That puts her in the 96th percentile for her age and gender group. "It's logical to assume that there's a higher risk of having cardiac events and higher risk of having more obstructive sort of heart disease," said Dr. Kramer.

Doctors told us calcium scores can be one of the earliest detectors of heart disease.

Sausser said knowing her score now is giving her more time to be proactive about her heart health. She's seeing doctors, taking tests, even living a healthier lifestyle. "Since I found out about the score, I've really changed. I really do considerable more exercise, and I have to say our eating is about as good as it's been in my lifetime," Sausser said.

When it comes to staying healthy, her knowledge is power. Sausser believes knowing her calcium score is helping to save her life. "Anybody who knows me knows I love life. So, this for me is like he greatest things since bubble gum," said Sausser.

Here are some more facts about calcium scores: Women should get a CT scan to learn their calcium score by age 50, at least.

Men should know theirs when they're 45.

Doctors say a screening takes about 15 minutes and costs about $50.