I have no particular risk factors for a heart attack, but can I have the test anyway just to be sure?
Because of the potential harms in having the test, it should only be done if the results will help you and your GP make a decision about whether you need to take long-term medication to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure.2
If you are concerned about your cholesterol or blood pressure, talk to your GP about your concerns.
To keep your risk low, eat plenty of vegetables and some fruit, exercise regularly and, if you smoke, quit smoking.4,5
I have been having some chest pains and/or unusual shortness of breath. Should I have the test to see if my heart is okay?
If you have are experiencing chest pains or unusual shortness of breath, talk to your GP as soon as possible.
Your GP will examine you and ask:
- how the pain feels (eg is it a burning sensation, a sharp sensation, does it stay, or does it come and go?)
- when you normally experience the pain and/or shortness of breath (eg do you experience the pain while resting or during exercise, or when you are feeling anxious or worried?)
- how long the pain and/or shortness of breath lasts for.
Based on your answers, your GP will talk to you about the best way of identifying any health issues you might have, and how to manage your symptoms. Sometimes a test is needed to determine if there are any serious health issues, but the CAC score is not the most appropriate test for these symptoms.
If I have been advised to take cholesterol and blood pressure medicine because of my risk of heart attack, do I need a CAC score?
No, you do not need a CAC score because the results of the CAC score will not change your treatment.2 Regardless of the result, you will still need to continue taking your medication, eating well and exercising.
If I have had a CAC score, when should it be repeated?
Your CAC levels change very slowly over time, so there is no point in repeating the test in less than two to five years, depending on your level of overall risk and any changes to other factors.2,3