July 8, 2024
July 8, 2024

Why No Caffeine Before Calcium Scoring: A Guide to Accurate Results

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Why No Caffeine Before Calcium Scoring: A Guide to Accurate Results

If you are going for a coronary calcium scan, you’ll be told to avoid caffeine for four hours before the appointment. This might not be what you want to hear if your morning routine includes a much-needed cup of coffee!

The good news is, you won’t have to fast completely - the main advice is to avoid caffeine. This is because caffeine is a stimulant that causes symptoms such as heart palpitations, which can interfere with the quality of the scan leading to inaccurate results.

If you’re interested in how caffeine affects calcium scoring, continue reading further. In this article, we look at what cardiac calcium scoring is, what a calcium scan involves, and what a high score means for your health.

What is Cardiac Calcium Scoring?

Cardiac calcium scoring involves getting a computed tomography (CT) scan that will take images of your heart. This allows physicians to determine the calcium levels in your coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are blood vessels carrying oxygenated blood to the heart muscles.

By assessing the levels of calcium in these arteries, physicians can tell if there is a build-up of plaque that can narrow or block the vessels. Plaque is made up of waxy and fatty substances and a build-up could indicate you have a condition called atherosclerosis.  

Atherosclerosis refers to the condition where there is a narrowing of blood vessels. When this narrowing occurs in the coronary arteries, it is referred to as coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease affects 18 million adults in the USA and is the leading cause of death around the world.  

Coronary artery disease can be asymptomatic for years. Other times it can present with symptoms like:

  • Stable angina: intermittent predictable chest pain that occurs during exertion.
  • Unstable angina: intermittent unpredictable chest pain that can occur during rest as well as exertion.
  • Dyspnea: Shortness of breath (this might be more noticeable during physical activity).

With the gradual build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries, the arteries can narrow and reduce blood supply to the heart muscles leading to a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Do I Need a Calcium Score Test?

A calcium scoring test is usually recommended for people aged 40-70 years old who are asymptomatic but at an increased riskof heart disease. This is considered the intermediate risk group who have a 7.5-20% risk of developing heart disease or stroke in 10 years.

Risk factors of heart disease:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Past or current smoker
  • Cholesterolemia
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Body Mass Index over 25
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Those who have a diagnosis of coronary artery disease should not have this test. This is primarily because the scan will not amend their current treatment plan. Those at low risk of coronary artery disease are also not recommended to take this test. This group includes those who areunder 40.

Pregnant women cannot have a calcium scan as the radiation from the CT scan could harm the fetus. If you are pregnant andneed a calcium scoring test, it is recommended to wait until after delivery.

Can I Drink Coffee before Calcium Scoring: Dos and Don’ts

While there is no special preparation needed before the calcium scan, there are some general dos and don’ts:


  • Eat and drink as you would normally
  • Continue taking your prescribed medication as usual
  • Wear comfortable clothing


  • Drink anything containing caffeine four hours before the scan
  • Smoke four hours before the scan
  • Wear jewelry (if you do you will have the opportunity to remove it before the scan)
  • Wear clothes with metal parts such as zips/hooks

Caffeine and smoking have short-term effects on the heart. They can cause palpitations (increased beating of the heart) which can result in inaccurate scan result. This is why it is recommended to avoid any caffeine-containing product or smoking before the scan to allow for proper assessment of your coronary arteries.

Caffeine-containing products also include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Energy drinks
  • Soda
  • Chocolate

What Happens During a Calcium Score Test?

When you attend your calcium scoring scan, you will be greeted by your radiographer who will conduct the CT scan for you. They will go through what will happen during the scan and ask you some initial questions. There will also be some time before the scan to go through any of your worries and answer questions you might have.

The appointment might take 40 minutes to one hour in total, but the scan itself will only take a few minutes.

While in the CT scanner, the machine will take a series of pictures of your heart. By combining multiple images, the scan can reveal the amount of calcium deposits in the coronary arteries.

What Happens if my Calcium Score Test is High?

The coronary artery calcium score (CAC) relates to the evidence of coronary artery disease. The amount of calcium is calculated and scored. A calcium score can range from zero to more than 1000.

A score of one-100 means there are mild deposits of plaque, 100-400 shows moderate plaque build-up, and above 400 indicates strong evidence of coronary artery disease.

Receiving news of a score greater than zero might be concerning. However, there are multiple steps you can take to reduce your scoring and risk of developing a heart attack or stroke in the future.

Depending on your score, the physician might either recommend lifestyle changes with or without new medications.

Tips for lowering heart disease risk:

  • Stop smoking (if you are finding it difficult to immediately stop smoking, start by reducing with the aim to stop).
  • Weight loss (if you are overweight or obese with a BMI of 25 or greater, it is important to reduce your weight).
  • Cutting out trans fats and processed foods, swapping to a healthy well-balanced diet.
  • Physical exercise (a recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise).
  • Cutting down on alcohol (stay within the recommended alcohol intake).

If you are diabetic or have hypertension, itis important to ensure you take your prescribed medications and that the quantity is controlled.  


Calcium scoring is an important screening tool if you fall within the intermediate risk group. The CT scan will be used to calculate your CAC score and the amount of calcium in your coronary arteries.

As discussed in the article, to ensure you get accurate results from the CT scan for treatment recommendation, it is important to avoid consuming caffeine in any form from four hours before the scan.

As caffeine is a stimulant, it increases heart palpitations which prevents getting an accurate picture of the heart and coronary arteries during the scan.

Another way to stay ahead of the health curve is to get an Ezra Full Body Scan, an imaging tool that screens for potential cancer in up to 13 organs.

This MRI screening is a non-invasive way to find potential issues before symptoms arise. You can add on a heart CAC screening as part of Ezra’s Full Body Plus scan. However, this is only recommended for individuals over the age of 40 with risk of heart disease or stroke, and for those over the age of 30 with a family history of heart attacks, strokes or high cholesterol due to genetics. If you are interested in booking a Full Body Plus scan with Heart Calcium, click here.