Area doctors encourage preventative screenings for heart disease

Three simple tests can help determine if heart disease is present, or likely to occur

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Heart disease is considered the greatest health threat to Americans and is the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the American Heart Association.

That’s one reason the month of February is designated as “American Heart Month” and as part of an effort to raise awareness about the early detection of heart disease, local doctors are offering preventative screenings.

My visit to Cardiology Associates of North Mississippi began with a visit to the lab for blood work.

Then it was on to the X-Ray room where I would get an electrocardiogram, or EKG, to measure the electrical activity of the heart.

Once the EKG was complete, it was time for a CT scan, to measure any calcified plaque in my arteries.

Dr. Benjamin Blossom said early detection is key to helping reduce a patient’s risk for heart disease and stroke. That’s why doctors are encouraging more screenings before any symptoms develop.

“Cardiology in the past has not been good with screening, we’ve been very reactive. People have events, we fix things then, we’re trying to be proactive,” Blossom said.

All three tests took less than 20 minutes, then, Blossom went over the test results.

“EKG looks good here, nice normal rhythm, normal rate,” he said.

My good cholesterol or HDL was 47, which is normal. The bad cholesterol, or LDL, was 118.  Ideally, it should be below 100. I will get mine checked again, in three months.

My calcium score, which measures calcified plaque in the arteries, was 17. A perfect score is zero. Anything below 100 is considered good.

Blossom said it’s important to stay ahead of any cardiovascular disease, and diagnostic tests are a great way to do that. He said awareness about the importance of early detection is increasing, but could always be better.

“We still see the patient who, a family member or family friend has an issue and they use that as a reason to get this test, we would encourage people to not wait for something like that, but to come in and let us screen,” Blossom said.

While genetics also play a role in the likelihood of heart disease, lifestyle choices, such as exercise and a healthy diet also make a big difference.

“30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day is what is recommended. You want to get your heart rate up. A lot of people say ‘I walk a lot at work, walking from desk to factory floor really’. What we’re talking about is sustained heart rate elevation,” he said.

People can have heart disease without having any symptoms. That’s why Blossom said it’s important to have the tests done, especially the calcium tests, to make sure there are no underlying risk factors before a major medical issue develops.

Other ways to prevent heart disease include, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar, and getting regular checkups. Cardiology Associates of North Mississippi is offering all three tests for $50 throughout February.

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