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New screening for heart disease


New Screening for Heart Disease

Some Mississippians know they’re at risk of heart disease due to family history, but others might wonder if their chronic conditions make them prone to cardiovascular problems – or if good health can be deceiving.


A quick and easy cardiology screening can reveal answers to all of those questions, experts at the University of Mississippi Medical Center say. For the first time, they are offering the screenings UMMC’s Grants Ferry clinic in Flowood, giving patients peace of mind and the information they need for personalized treatment going forward. Those screened at the 1010 Lakeland Place clinic have three options, depending on need and choice of pricing, said Amanda Howell, a registered diagnostic sonographer and lead technician on the testing.


All three tiers assess risk for heart disease and build off each other, with the first tier including a coronary artery calcium scan, or CAC, to calculate a calcium-level score; bloodwork to check cholesterol levels; a glucose test to determine blood sugar levels; and blood pressure checks for the presence of hypertension. If testing shows a patient has risk factors for heart disease, they may be referred to a cardiologist or given the option of a second tier of testing that includes all first-tier testing plus an electrocardiogram to check for irregular heartbeat and a body mass index evaluation. Third-tier testing adds on an ultrasound of the patient’s carotid arteries in the neck to identify any stenosis or plaque buildup and to track blood flow to the brain. The third tier also includes an ankle brachial index test, which compares the blood pressure in the upper and lower limbs to check for stiff peripheral arteries, an indicator of cardiovascular disease; and a scan of the abdominal aorta to look for aneurysms.


Additional testing is available for smokers or those with a history of smoking. Screenings also include a heart risk questionnaire with queries on past heart attack or stroke, incidences of chest pain or shortness of breath, and other symptoms and risk factors.


The testing is competitively priced, with tier one costing $85; tier two, $99; and tier three, $150. The goal is for screenings to take about 15-20 minutes for the first tier and under an hour for the second and third tiers. “We will help guide you if you need help figuring what tier is best for you,” Howell said.


Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Hispanics, heart disease is second only to cancer, the CDC says.


Symptoms vary widely from patient to patient, but can include chests pain, tightness and pressure; shortness of breath; pain, numbness, weakness and coldness in the legs or arms; and pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back. Especially dangerous is atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, or ASCVD, Deere said. It’s caused by high levels of” bad” cholesterol in the blood, leading to plaque buildup on the walls of arteries. Over time, that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Some people aren’t diagnosed until they’ve had a heart attack, stroke or heart failure. That means screening can make a huge difference in someone’s cardiovascular health.


Located in Jackson, UMMC encompasses seven health science schools, including medicine, nursing, health related professions, dentistry, pharmacy, graduate studies and population health. The Medical Center’s health care enterprise includes the state’s only Level I trauma center, only children’s hospital, and only organ and bone marrow transplant program. The Medical Center also is home to a Telehealth Center of Excellence, one of two in the nation.


Patients can call 601-815-4321 now to make an appointment, said Alli Pitre, program administrator at UMMC’s University Heart and lead project manager for the screening program.


























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