(06/06/12) - A simple test can uncover hidden heart attack risk factors.
Stewart Phinizy is a real estate shark, but it was the state of his health that came as a surprise.
"Never thought that I had any issues with my health," Phinizy said.
But there was an issue, his arteries.
"They said 'looks like you have some blockage.' I wasn't feeling bad, this is the scary part," he said.
Cardiologist doctor Sheldon Litwin says that's not uncommon.
"A heart attack can be the first symptom in somebody that didn't have any warning signs before it," Litwin said.
That's why he says getting your calcium score checked is so important.
Like cholesterol and fat, calcium can build up on the arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart. Traditional testing needs to show severe blockage to come out positive, but with the calcium score test, the non-invasive five-minute test uses a c-t scan to better estimate a patient's heart attack risk and gauges the benefit of certain heart treatments, like statins.
A new study found patients who had no symptoms of heart disease but did have a buildup of calcium - even those with low cholesterol, had twice the risk for heart attack or stroke and four times the risk for heart disease than those with a calcium score of zero.
"Somebody who has a calcium score of zero, the chance over the next five years of having a heart attack is well under 1 percent, probably less than half of 1 percent," Litwin said.
As for Stewart, he had a score of 125 and needed surgery. The test is recommended for men older than 45 and women older than 55.
The best way to avoid a high score is to maintain a normal body weight and watch your salt intake.
ABC12 Main Station