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❤️ Heart Health: The Unseen Risks and the Role of Coronary Calcium CT Scans

Courtney Hunt, MD

On Valentine's Day, our thoughts often turn to hearts in a figurative sense. However, this February, let's also focus on the literal heart and its health. Understanding the risks that may not always be visible or felt can be crucial in preventing heart disease. One such tool in detecting heart health risks is the Coronary Calcium CT Scan, a test that can reveal hidden dangers in our arteries.

A Coronary Calcium CT Scan is a non-invasive medical test that helps detect calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. These deposits can be an early sign of coronary artery disease, a leading cause of heart attacks. The test uses computed tomography (CT) to take detailed pictures of the heart, allowing doctors to see whether and where calcium has built up in the artery walls.

The results of a Coronary Calcium CT Scan are often presented as an Agatston Score. This score quantifies the amount of calcium in your coronary arteries, providing a measure of your risk for heart disease. The higher the score, the higher the risk. An Agatston Score ranges from 0 (no detectable plaque) to over 400 (extensive plaque and high risk of heart disease).

Several risk factors contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, including:

- Erectile Dysfunction: Surprisingly, erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of heart disease. The same plaque buildup that restricts blood flow to the heart can also affect blood flow elsewhere, including the penis.

- Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can damage arteries, making it easier for cholesterol to deposit and plaque to form.

- Eye/Retina Problems: Changes in the blood vessels of the retina can indicate cardiovascular disease. Regular eye exams can help detect these signs early.

- Inflammation: Chronic inflammation can damage artery walls, encouraging plaque buildup. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) tests can measure inflammation levels and predict heart disease risk.

Testing for coronary calcium is typically recommended for individuals at intermediate risk of heart disease—those with risk factors like high blood pressure, family history of heart disease, smoking, or age. If you're concerned about your heart health, discuss with your healthcare provider whether a Coronary Calcium CT Scan is appropriate for you. Mitochondrial Energy Production: The Heart's Powerhouse: At the cellular level, the health of our heart is deeply intertwined with the efficiency of our mitochondria, the "powerhouses" of our cells. These tiny organelles are responsible for converting nutrients into energy, a process vital for maintaining the heart's relentless beating. Every heartbeat relies on an immense amount of energy, and that energy is produced by mitochondria through a process known as oxidative phosphorylation. However, factors like aging, poor nutrition, and lifestyle choices can impair mitochondrial function, leading to decreased energy production and increased oxidative stress. This imbalance can contribute to the development of heart disease by promoting inflammation, plaque buildup, and arterial damage. Supporting mitochondrial health through exercise, a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, and potentially, supplements like CoQ10, can bolster the heart's energy supply, helping to maintain its function and resilience against disease.

A Heartfelt Valentine's Reminder this Valentine's Day, while chocolates and flowers are sweet, consider giving yourself or your loved ones the gift of heart health awareness. Recognizing the signs and risk factors for heart disease, understanding the significance of tests like the Coronary Calcium CT Scan, and knowing your Agatston Score can empower you to take proactive steps towards a healthier heart. After all, a healthy heart is the best gift you can offer to those you love—and to yourself.

Remember, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before undergoing any medical tests. They can provide personalized advice based on your health history and risk factors. Let this Valentine's be a time to cherish not just the emotional heart but also the physical one, ensuring many more years of love and happiness ahead. To deepen your understanding of mitochondria, join me this Friday, February 16th at 10:30am MST for a 1-hour live webinar. Click here to read more + register for the live webinar!

❤️ In Health,

Courtney Hunt, MD


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