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Heart screening may have saved nurse’s life


February 17, 2017

Debbie Simms was aware of her family history of heart disease. Yet, because the Dayton-area nurse led an active lifestyle and had no serious health conditions; she never considered herself to be at any serious risk.

Then her brother had a stroke, and Simms decided it was time to check on her own heart health.

She found her opportunity during a special Heart Month event at Grandview Medical Center, where she underwent a Healthy Arteries Screening that checks for plaque buildup in arteries, a condition which increases risk for stroke and heart disease.

Little did she know, that quick and painless heart screening would end up saving her life.

“When I visited my brother in the hospital, I told him any one of us could have been a walking time bomb. I had no idea that, at the time, I was one.”

Knowing your risk could save your life

The key to preventing heart disease – still the No. 1 killer of men and women – is managing the risk factors that can cause it. But how do you know which risk factors you have, if any?

The answer: heart screenings.

What are heart screenings?

“Heart screenings help identify factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing heart disease in their earliest stages,” explained Barb Emrick, MS, RN, Kettering Center for Heart and Vascular Health. “Early detection leads to early treatments that help lower risk and provide the best chance for preventing a later heart attack or stroke.”

For Simms, the Healthy Arteries Screening indicated that she had severe carotid stenosis, or blockage of the carotid artery. Further tests revealed a 98 percent blockage of the right carotid artery in her neck.

She could have had a stroke at any second.

Who should get heart screenings?

Emrick says that regular heart screenings are especially important for those, like Simms, who have family history of heart or vascular disease in a first-degree relative (parents, children or siblings), as well as those individuals with multiple risk factors that include: smoking, high fat diet, high/abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity, metabolic syndrome, and being overweight.

Types of heart screenings available

Heart screenings are quick – lasting 30 minutes or less – and painless, and they provide doctors with invaluable information about your heart health. Kettering Health Network offers the following heart screenings at several locations throughout the greater Dayton area:

  • Healthy Hearts Basic Screening: A quick-and-easy screen that measures cholesterol levels, blood sugar, blood pressure, and other risk factors for heart disease
  • Healthy Arteries Screening: A non-invasive ultrasound screening that detects early artery thickening, plaque and abnormal blood flow in arteries prone to plaque forming
  • Heart Print EKG: A screening that detects heart rhythm and other heart abnormalities
  • Heart Calcium Scan: A CT scan that detects coronary artery calcium
  • Advanced Heart Screen: Completed in two visits, this comprehensive heart evaluation includes a non-invasive heart calcium scan, EKG, detailed lipid profile, vitamin D level, artery inflammation tests, body mass index, blood pressure, and heart risk scores. 

As for Simms, she underwent surgery to clear the blocked artery, and fortunately, she made a full recovery. She feels blessed to be able to share her story in the hope that it might help someone else.

Said Simms, “Make a point to get yourself checked. You never know – it really could save your life.”

Click here for more information on Kettering Health Network’s heart screenings and locations.