New Test for Heart Health Saves Lives
It’s a simple test that takes less than 15 minutes, but it could save your life. Brad and Jody Scheppmann, of Rockwell City, learned of the coronary artery calcium scoring being offered at Stewart Memorial Community Hospital in Lake City and decided to check on their heart health.
Brad, who retired from Georgia Pacific a year ago, had been suffering for years from atherosclerosis, also called coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition which refers to the buildup of plaque in the artery walls which can restrict blood flow. Because of his condition, in 2010, stents were placed in his femoral artery to improve circulation to his ankles. Over the years he experienced ulcers on his ankles, and in 2017 almost died when an ulcer hemorraged. Managing his health conditions was extremely important to the couple.
Jody admits she has all the risk factors for heart attack including: being over the age of 40, high blood cholesterol, family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and overweight by 20 or more pounds. “I wanted to get some peace of mind and find out if I really am at risk,” she says.
She describes the test. “It’s painless. You’re in the CT machine for 15 minutes or less, and you have to hold your breath a few times. The machine tells you exactly what to do. It’s really simple.”
The goal of the cardiac CT scan for calcium scoring is to determine if CAD is present and to what extent, even if there are no symptoms. It is a non-invasive, low radiation dose way of obtaining information about the presence, location, and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries - the vessels that supply blood to the heart.
In Jody’s case, a blockage was found. For Brad, his score was very high. He says, “My score indicates possible issues. There is a 90 percent chance I will have a heart attack within the next ten years. This really opened my eyes.”
The couple was referred to a cardiology specialist. Jody will wear a heart monitor and have a stress test to gather more information about the blockage. Brad will also wear the heart monitor and take cholesterol medicine.
The couple, who enjoy fishing and hunting, have opted to strive for healthier habits. Jody says, “We’re trying to lose weight and be more active. We’re eating salads, reducing salt, and altering recipes to be healthier.”
Brad chimes in, “We’re following doctor’s orders!”
They recommend everyone take the test. “I feel fine,” Jody says, “I thought being tired and any other symptoms were related to my diabetes or COPD. I wouldn’t have known about any heart issues until it was too late without this test. Taking the test hardly takes any time and is painless. You’re scrolling through Facebook longer than the time it takes for the test!”
“To make getting the exam easier for patients who see providers at McCrary Rost clinics, they can just call radiology and schedule the exam as long as they have two of the risk factors and have seen their provider in the last 6 months. They can then make an appointment with their provider to go over their results. If they see an outside provider, they can still call and schedule and have their provider send us an order for the test,” says Jenni King, director of medical imaging at SMCH.
Results are sent to your medical provider, who will help you devise a health plan. Take steps to improve your health and visit with your medical provider about scheduling a Calcium Scoring for $99.