Heart screenings for prevention

We often focus on the negative side of winter – the treacherous snow showers, bone-chilling temperatures and feeling stuck inside. But, as Mark O’Shaughnessy, MD, Parkview Physicians Group – Cardiology, suggests, why not make the most of the time spent indoors and use some of it to bring your health screenings up to date.  

“The No. 1 thing we recommend is that you know your numbers,” Dr. O’Shaughnessy said. “And those are your blood pressure, blood glucose/sugar and cholesterol. Those screenings should begin with your primary care physician in your 20s and be repeated annually or every other year, depending on your results.

The reason we start screening at a younger age – in the 20s and 30s – is because we think that, despite what most people think, heart disease starts in our teens and 20s, and becomes manifested when we’re in our later years. So it’s very important that we screen early to uncover the disease before it’s evident and then alter the disease process and prevent the disease from becoming manifested.”

For some, additional testing is necessary to identify their cardiovascular condition. “Probably the best screening out there is the coronary calcium scan, which is a noninvasive, 2-minute scan of one’s chest that identifies artery disease. It’s a true screening study that indicates whether you do or you do not have disease. I would recommend a coronary calcium screening for patients who are at high risk and in their mid-30s, have a strong family history or other risk factors, and anybody over the age of 40.”

While we don’t know what causes atherosclerosis (deposition of plaque on the inner artery walls), we do know a change in habits can have an effect on the condition. “In addition to knowing your numbers, the most important thing a person can do to prevent cardiovascular disease is to quit smoking or never start,” Dr. O’Shaughnessy said.  Need help kicking the habit? Learn more about our smoking cessation classes.

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