The skeptical cardiologist was contacted in June by a reader seeking my input to help tell a story.
He shared with me that he had recently undergone a coronary artery calcium (CAC) scan and was impressed with how simple yet beneficial the test was:
I’m 57 and I have always had borderline high cholesterol. Recently though, my doctor recommended that I find out my Coronary CT Calcium Score. I got one over at St. Lukes and it was a 54. What blows me away is that this highly informative test is virtually unknown to the general public. No one I’ve mentioned this to has ever heard of it. I want to help change that.
I was disappointed to hear that so few are aware of the test given that I have written extensively about CAC testing to help in deciding which patients benefit from lipid-lowering therapy. For an introduction to the test see my post entitled “The Ultimate Guide to the Coronary Artery Calcium Scan” post. For the latest on the prevention of coronary heart disease see my post on “The Importance of Imaging and Advanced Biomarkers.”
The reader went on to ask for my input in the animated story he wanted to make:
I can tell you much more, BUT I’m a partner in an information design firm here in St Louis and have decided to make a 3 minute animated story out of my experience in the hopes of helping more people. I want people to know that this test exists, who should consider getting one, and a little bit of the science that goes into it. I’m wondering if you would be interested in looking at the script and storyboard to make sure I’m telling an accurate, credible story.
The reader was Scott Matthews, a designer, illustrator, and storyteller, and co-founder of a St. Louis company called Tremendousness. His company has made videos for TED and has collaborated in the past with Gary Taubes and Dr. Robert Lustig on The Sugary Truth. Tremendousness “crafts highly visual stories that turn your ideas into amazing actions and outcomes. These stories help you humanize transformation and change, accelerate innovation, and power sales, marketing, and thought leadership.”
I was excited to give my feedback and input on the content and now Scott and his team’s video is freely available for your education and/or enjoyment:
Please feel free to share this video with your friends, patients, and loved ones, especially those who have a history of parents or siblings with sudden death, heart attacks, coronary stents, or bypass surgery before the age of 65 years. Individuals who are “on the fence” about taking a statin will also benefit from spending 3 minutes looking at this video.
N.B. Although the CAC test utilizes a CT scan it is not the same as a coronary CT angiogram or CCTA. The CCTA requires the injection of a dye material, involves more radiation, and is more expensive than the CAC scan.
N.B.2 See comment from Dr. Osborne who correctly points out that a CAC score of 54 is actually high for a 57 year old white male and is not cause for celebration. Part of my input to the video was to dispel the idea that a score <100 is low risk in a youngish person. The significance of the score is highly related to the individuals age and gender. This is best determined by using the MESA coronary calculator and risk estimator. Hopefuly, your PCP or cardiologist can put the score in the proper context.