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It’s hard to believe I have heart disease, says veteran cardiac nurse

“My insurance required that I ‘know my numbers,’ which means to go have your lipid panel done,” says Ann Mitchell, a cardiac nurse at Piedmont.

After undergoing the cholesterol test, she learned her total cholesterol was slightly over 200, which is above the ideal range. Her LDL – also known as “bad” cholesterol – was over 100, which was also above the ideal range. Mitchell showed her test results to a cardiologist with whom she worked.

“He said, ‘It’s not ideal, but you’re young, you exercise, you eat healthy – go have a calcium score done and see what that is,’” she says.

Her calcium score

She underwent a coronary calcium scan, which uses computed tomography (CT) to look for calcium buildup in plaque on the heart’s artery walls. The test can determine heart disease in early stages and the severity of disease.

Mitchell’s total calcium score was 14, which indicates the presence of plaque and mild heart disease.

Her diagnosis

She met with Jyoti Sharma, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart Institute, who ordered a CT angiogram of Mitchell’s heart. After the angiogram, Dr. Sharma gave Mitchell the news: The test found disease in the left artery of her heart.

“It was really hard for me to believe that I had coronary artery disease,” she says. “It was very hard to accept it because I’d been a nurse in cardiology for 20-something years. I’d always exercised, ate healthy and I had no idea that one in three women had heart disease – and I am one of those women.”

Taking charge of her health

“I couldn’t believe it and anyone that I told couldn’t believe it because I had tried to lead such a healthy lifestyle my whole life,” she says.

Despite the shock of the news, Mitchell is glad she underwent testing so she can help prevent a future heart event, like heart attack or stroke.

“I am so glad and thankful that I had these tests done so I can prevent something from happening,” she says.

One in three women will die from heart disease. Talk to the women you love about Piedmont’s $100 heart screening. Click here to learn more.

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