At 74 years old, Linda Schwartz believes staying healthy should be a top priority. She also understands that to achieve that, she must maintain a good relationship with her doctors and have regular health screenings.
“I am on a statin to help lower my cholesterol and hopefully reduce my risk of heart disease,” says Linda. “But, when I was at a regular visit with my cardiologist, he suggested I get a screening to check for blockages in my carotid arteries.”
Kevin Miller, MD, a cardiologist with St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute, promotes screenings as a way to detect heart and vascular disease before symptoms may appear. He says, “It isn’t unusual for someone to have narrowing of a carotid artery, or have an abdominal aortic aneurysm with little to no symptoms.”
Dr. Miller explains if you have a history of heart disease or are at a higher risk, a series of primary prevention screenings can help identify your current level of heart or vascular disease. Dr. Miller recommends screenings if you:
- Are older than 60.
- Are older than 50, with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or a history of smoking.
- Are older than 40 with diabetes
- Have a family history of vascular disease (including stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, kidney failure, sudden cardiac death, or abdominal aortic aneurysms).
“These screenings aren’t something you need to do annually,” he says, “But they can help us identify if you have a mild problem or you need aggressive intervention.”
Early Detection Saves Lives
At an appointment with Linda last year, Dr. Miller suggested Linda schedule a screening to see if she had any hidden heart and vascular disease.
Linda decided a screening sounded simple enough. She scheduled a screening with the St. Elizabeth Healthcare CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit on a day it was in Florence, Kentucky, not far from her Burlington home. The CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit visits various locations throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
The mobile health unit offers several low-cost screenings and risk assessments including:
- Cardiac age health risk assessment
- Stroke/carotid artery screening
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
- Peripheral artery disease screening
- Atrial fibrillation screening
The screenings take about 30 minutes, and you get results immediately, including a one-on-one session with a health educator to discuss the findings and your level of risk If you need further evaluation, the St. Elizabeth team schedules the appointment for you.
“One of the benefits of having these screenings with St. Elizabeth versus a group that comes into the area from somewhere else is we can provide follow-up care immediately,” says Dr. Miller. “If disease is found during the screening, we set you up with a specialist right away to help treat you—there isn’t a question about what is the next step.”
85 Percent Blocked Artery
During Linda’s screening, the technician found a severe blockage in her carotid artery that needed immediate attention. Linda’s screening found her left carotid artery was nearly 85 percent blocked. She says, “It was the best $75 I ever spent.”
Dr. Miller explains what can happen when you have a large blockage in the carotid artery: “The carotid artery supplies blood to the brain. Too much plaque in the artery can cause a blockage. If a piece of the plaque breaks off or the artery becomes 100 percent blocked, it can cause a stroke.”
The team at the mobile unit scheduled Linda to see a vascular surgeon for further testing. Soon after, Linda was in Dr. Alexander Hou’s office. Dr. Hou is a vascular surgeon with St. Elizabeth Physicians.
“Vascular screenings can find disease that otherwise may go undetected until there is a serious medical emergency,” says Dr. Hou. “In Linda’s case, it was caught just in time.”
Dr. Hou scheduled Linda for surgery to remove the plaque and unblock her carotid artery. After an overnight stay, Linda was back home recovering.
“I like to enjoy life and it is important for me to stay active,” says Linda. “We were going to leave for Florida for the winter a few weeks after the surgery. Knowing that the blockage was taken care of gave me the peace of mind to enjoy the outdoors and the weather in Florida.”
Low-Cost Heart Disease Screening Makes it Easy
“I knew the results immediately and I got a call right away about my appointment with Dr. Hou,” recalls Linda. “Everyone was so nice and I never felt scared or alone in the process.”
The cardiovascular screenings and the heart age assessment are $25 each or you can receive all screenings for $100. The AFib screening is free with any other paid screening. Reservations are required. Please call (859) 301-9355 (WELL) to schedule an appointment or learn more about the low-cost screenings here.
Dr. Miller sees the benefits of preventative screenings because it can modify the plans for disease management or prevention including medication and lifestyle changes.
Linda recommends the screening to all of her friends, “It would be silly not to have a screening. It was very easy and it saved my life.”