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Non-invasive heart screening saves man’s life

Jim Burke’s father had a history of heart disease and experienced a heart attack at the age of 39 and again in his 40s.

“As I got older, that was always in the back of my mind,” he says. 

A proactive approach to heart health

In 2011, at age 56, Burke took a proactive approach to his health and decided to schedule a heart screening.

“I saw some information about a low-key exam called a calcium arterial score,” he explains.

Also known as a coronary calcium scan or calcium CT scoring, the non-invasive test uses a computed tomography (CT) scan to look for calcium buildup on the artery walls.

Burke’s test results

After the exam, his cardiologist delivered the results: Burke’s score was highly abnormal.  They determined that a cardiac catheterization was the best next step.  A cardiac catheterization is a test that checks blood flow in the arteries, blood pressure and flow in the heart chambers, heart valve function and heart movement.

“The results immediately indicated that there were severe blockages and I had to be admitted to the hospital immediately,” says Burke. “I ended up having triple bypass surgery.”

How a screening potentially saved his life

At least one of his blockages was referred to as a “widowmaker,” which is a 100 percent blockage in the main coronary artery.

“That describes the severity and gravity of the situation,” he says. “Had I not acted on making that first appointment for the calcium score exam, who knows where I would be?”

Whether or not you have a family history of heart disease, it is important to talk to a physician about your risk factors. A simple screening could save your life.

Click here to find a cardiologist near you. For tips on living a heart-healthy lifestyle and other inspiring patient stories, visit Living Better’s Heart Health page

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