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Heart and stroke screenings done in an hour

Education is key in preventing heart disease

February is Heart Month. Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, yet many people have no symptoms? To prevent a cardiac event from affecting your life, it’s essential to learn what puts you at risk of developing heart disease, and how to keep it from occurring. At UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge, you can get life’s important heart screenings done in one convenient hour.

Our stroke and vascular screenings including: stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm, peripheral vascular disease and osteoporosis. The screenings are held on the second Monday of every month at UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center. The results are then read by Dr. Willerth, UnityPoint Clinic vascular and general surgeon, and mailed out promptly to the participants. Individuals are then encouraged to share those results with their primary care provider.

More about the screenings:

• Stroke screen — The stroke screen is encouraged for people who are at risk for a stroke. Risk factors include family history of stroke, high blood pressure, smoking, heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, heavy use of alcohol, and lack of physical activity. Every 40 seconds in our country someone is having a stroke. Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain, carrying oxygen and nutrients, becomes blocked with a buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis); and subsequently a blood clot, which then cuts off the blood supply to the brain. This type of stroke is called ischemic and is the most common. A second type of stroke is hemorrhagic and occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. The stroke screening consists of:

• Carotid ultrasound — A carotid artery ultrasound to assess if the arteries in the neck are blocked or narrowed.

• Blood pressure check — Blood pressure and a pulse check are also checked with the assessment. More than half of strokes are caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure. You can fight back against this silent killer by routinely having your blood pressure checked.

• Heart rhythm screen — Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm that may cause blood clots to form within the heart. The clot is then pumped out of the heart to the brain where blood supply is cut off, thus causing a stroke. An EKG is done to assess the regularity of the heart rhythm.

• Cholesterol check — A cholesterol result is obtained to assess if that may be a contributing factor in a buildup of plaque within the blood vessels. A high cholesterol level increases the risk for stroke as well as for heart disease.

• Abdominal aortic aneurysm screen — The AAA screen consists of an ultrasound of the abdomen. An aneurysm is a weakened area of blood vessel that then bulges out. A ruptured aneurysm is a medical emergency. The greatest risk factor for this is a family history of aneurysm. Other risk factors include age, male gender, tobacco use, high blood pressure and peripheral vascular disease

• Peripheral Vascular Disease Screen — PVD is the same disease of atherosclerosis, but it’s occurring in the periphery, particularly in the legs. Many people may have PVD but are symptom free. The common signs and symptoms seen include pain, numbness, achiness, or heaviness of legs especially with walking, weak or absent pulses in the legs and/or feet, sores or wounds that are slow to heal, pale or bluish color leg skin color, lower skin temperature in one leg compared to the other, poor toenail growth or absence of hair growth on legs, and erectile dysfunction especially if diabetic. This test measures blood pressure at your ankle compared to blood pressure at your arm. If you are at risk for stroke or heart disease, you are also at risk for PVD.

• Osteoporosis/bone density screen — Although not vascular screening, we also offer a bone mineral density screen. Osteoporosis is a common disease that is associated with low bone density. Many do not realize they are at risk of osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. There are a number of risk factors for osteoporosis, such as age, gender, previous fractures, tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, but the most important of which is low BMD. Measures to keep bone strong include adequate calcium intake, supplemental calcium and Vitamin D if needed, weight resistance exercise, optimal body weight, tobacco cessation, and alcohol use moderation. This simple test takes only seconds measuring the heel bone. This screening can provide early detection and management of weak or porous bones.

No physician referral is required for these screens, and as mentioned above all the tests are read locally by Dr. Willerth and will recommend follow-up care, if needed. The cost for all four screens is $115. The carotid artery scan, AAA scan, and PVD test each cost $35 or $100 for all three. The osteoporosis, or bone density, screen by itself is $25. Unfortunately, private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid does not cover these screenings.

Take advantage of these important heart and stroke screenings. Call (515) 574-6505 to schedule an appointment.

Tami Fitzgerald Davis is a registered nurse. She works as a community resource nurse at Trinity Healthy Living.

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