PEORIA — If you're worried about your heart, don’t wait until you have a heart attack to see a cardiologist.

The OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute is taking appointments for patients who want to learn their 10-year heart disease risk score.

“Patients come in and have a one-time consultation with their cardiologist,” explained Dr. Timir Baman, a cardiologist with OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute. “The cardiologist looks at a variety of things: Your blood pressure, your cholesterol, your age, do you have diabetes, were you ever a smoker, and they can come up with a 10-year risk score. In other words, what chance do you have of having a cardiac event over 10 years?”

Patients who score low — with less than 5% chance — can go home and rest easy. Patients who score high, over 20%, will be counseled to make lifestyle changes, like exercise and diet. They might also be prescribed a statin drug to lower cholesterol. Patients who score in the middle, between 5 and 20%, will be offered a chance to learn more about their hearts.

“We will offer them a calcium scan, a quick study where we check your heart with a CT scanner looking for evidence of early blockages,” said Baman.

Though most insurance companies won’t pay for the calcium scan, it only costs about $100, said Baman. It’s an opportunity for people in the grey area of the assessment to learn how aggressive they should be about changing their lifestyle.

“People that have an early blockage can stop it from progressing, and in many cases, even decrease it,” said Baman.

The assessment is for people from 40 to 70 years of age who are interested in their health and don’t currently take a statin, said Baman. The assessment takes about 20 minutes, and patients know their score when they leave the doctor’s office.

While people who visit their primary care physician every year for a physical might have a good idea of their general health, the 10-year assessment focuses on the heart.

“This really puts it all together,” said Baman. “We think it will be particularly helpful for people in the indeterminate range of the assessment. Those are the people we can sit down and really look at their lifestyle — how much they exercise, what they eat. We have access to a dietician who can help them decrease their cholesterol. In the end, lifestyle is the most important thing and a lot of people need a little bit of assistance.

The OSF Cardiovascular Institute did not create the 10-year assessment. It's being done around the country with very good results, said Baman.

“Research has shown that the assessment is helping to decrease cardiac events over time,” said Baman.

Prevention is the key, he said.

“It is so much better for the community if we can identify patients who are at above average risk, and try and reduce that risk rather than waiting for that heart attack, waiting for that hospitalization or that stent and then having to deal with the repercussions there after.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment call (800) 352-4410.

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.