My four great-grandparents, my Grandma and Grandpa Fritsch, and two of my uncles. What do all of these people have in common? That's the list of names my mom sent me when I texted her and asked about our family history of heart disease. I couldn't believe it. I had to text her back twice to verify that she was talking about more than one grandparent. Talk about a wake up call. After learning how prevalent heart disease is in my family, I was all in when I had the opportunity to take The Christ Hospital's $29 Heart and Vascular Screening. After my screening, I spoke with Joel Reginelli, MD, an interventional cardiologist from The Christ Hospital Physicians – Heart & Vascular, to discuss the details of this screening and learn more about my results.
I didn't know what to expect once I scheduled my screening. I was pleasantly surprised to find out the whole screening was quick and painless. The most challenging part of my experience was the fasting. I was told the fasting helps the sonographer obtain optimal imaging in the abdomen. I scheduled my appointment first thing in the morning to minimize my hunger. Other than that, there was no additional prep required.
The entire procedure took less than 20 minutes. A certified sonographer moved an ultrasound probe over the blood vessels in my neck, the major artery in my abdomen, and checked my blood pressure readings in both of my arms and legs. I also had an electrocardiogram.
At the end of my visit, the screener explained the next steps. I could expect my results in approximately two weeks. As soon as the results are finalized, the report would be posted in MyChart, mailed to my home, and sent to my PCP. If the exam is normal, there would be no need for additional action. If there are mild abnormalities that only require surveillance and consideration for more aggressive risk factor management, I would be referred back to my primary provider. Markedly abnormal results would automatically trigger a referral to one of The Christ Hospital's vascular specialists.
When I receive my results, I was relieved to learn no plaque was detected in my carotid artery ultrasound. Dr. Reginelli explained that at the most basic level, plaque in the arteries is the result of inflammation in the blood vessel lining/wall. This occurs with aging but is accelerated in the presence of tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels. If plaque would have been present, I wondered how that plaque would be removed. Dr. Reginelli shared that in many situations, arteries do not require "plaque removal" and medical therapy is sufficient. When a clogged artery needs to be cleared, this can be accomplished by surgically removing the plaque (endarterectomy), surgically bypassing the plaque, or placing a stent into the vessel pushing the plaque into the vessel wall. I also didn't have any presence of atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation is a strong risk factor for stroke, and it can be present with minimal or no symptoms.
Luckily, my results were great! Since my findings were normal, I will not require a repeat assessment for at least five years.
The $29 screening was absolutely worth it. It was so easy and gave me great peace of mind. I started to think about the other things I've recently spent $29 on, including dinner for three, topping off my half-empty gas tank, and a quick trip to the grocery for some last-minute supplies. Although these things are necessities, spending $29 on your health should rank up there, too. If you are over the age of 60 or under the age of 60 with at least two vascular risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, obesity, and/or strong family history), you qualify for the screening. You can learn more about the $29 Heart and Vascular Screening or schedule an appointment at 513-585-2668.