Simple HeartSHAPE test shows warning signs of heart disease

Heart disease test

KINGSPORT, Tenn. - In less than five minutes, a simple test can give you a number that could help save your life.

It's called a HeartSHAPE calcium scoring test, and at a cost of about $50 it can throw up a red flag for men and women on the brink of heart disease.

As part of our monthly partnership with Wellmont Health System, we "Live Red" here at WCYB to bring you all the facts on women's heart disease.

At 61 years old, Pat Fleming knows the odds for heart disease may not be in her favor.

She's had no symptoms, but she does have risk factors. "High blood pressure; my mother has high blood pressure, I had two grandmothers who had high blood pressure," Fleming told News 5.

That's why Fleming is learning all she can about her the status of her heart with a HeartSHAPE calcium scoring test to see how much calcium is in her arteries. "I've never had this, so I'm anxious to see what it's all about," Fleming said just a few minutes before taking the test.

She let us follow her to see just how it's done. 

We discovered the test is quite simple. All Fleming does is lie down and let the CT machine do all the work; in just minutes, low-power X-rays take pictures of her heart.

Doctors later analyze those pictures, scanning for indicators of what could become heart disease.

"This test identifies calcium which is the hallmark of coronary artery disease, so it directly identifies the process that leads to most heart attacks," said Dr. Jerry Blackwell, a Wellmont CVA cardiologist.

Scores are later given to patients on a scale of zero to several thousand.

"Mrs. Fleming is going to get the best information that she'll get all day. I dare say all week," said Dr. Blackwell.

That's because her score is zero. "There is no evidence of any calcium in your heart arteries," Dr. Blackwell told Fleming.

"It is great to know, and I'm so relieved and so happy I came here to do it," Fleming told News 5 after the test.

It's a new weight lifted off her shoulders. Now all that's left is enjoying life to its fullest. "I think it means that I hopefully have a nice long life to enjoy these four grandchildren and get out and have a quality of life that I want to," she added.

Wellmont CVA cardiologists told us women between the ages of 55 and 75 and men between the ages of 45 and 75, both not experiencing any heart disease symptoms, are recommended to take the HeartSHAPE calcium scoring test.

High calcium scores serve as warning signs and can encourage doctors and patients to actively work on reducing risks for heart disease.

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