Heart screening pays off by detecting heart disease

06.05.2019

Greg Thorne, Elkhart, had no symptoms of heart problems when he went in for a routine physical with his family doctor. All his vital signs checked out and he felt healthy. When his doctor mentioned a $49 heart screening (to check his calcium score) for people over 50, Greg thought it sounded like a good idea, even if he didn’t need it.

“I just thought it would be good to know my score,” he said.
 
Greg Thorne, heart patient, relaxes with his wife Wendy and grandchildren Avery and Nolan
Greg Thorne, heart patient, relaxes with his wife Wendy
and grandchildren Avery and Nolan.
What Greg, 56, learned from his numbers changed his life – and may even have saved it.

“My numbers were outrageous,” said Greg, who had the test at Goshen Hospital.

Screening detects risks before warning signs appear

The simple, painless test, called a computed tomography (CT) scan, measures the amount of calcium in blood vessels. The higher the number, the greater the risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years.

Greg’s chart-topping score meant he was at a dangerously high risk of having a heart attack or stroke. 

“Atherosclerosis causes the lining of the blood vessels to harden, calcify and thicken,” explained LeRoy Weaver Jr., MD, Diagnostic Radiologist at Goshen Heart & Vascular Center. “It can affect blood flow to anywhere in your body.”

For Greg, a cardiac catheterization a week after the calcium test showed several blocked arteries, including one that was 100 percent blocked. Immediately after the diagnosis, his doctors scheduled Greg for surgery.

Simple, non-invasive test saves lives

Now Greg has become an outspoken advocate for the calcium screening test.

“I tell people there’s no reason not to do it,” he said. 

Many consider the screening as important as a mammogram or colonoscopy. If the test detects calcium in the heart, doctors can provide potentially life-saving medications, recommend lifestyle changes or offer advanced therapies, including surgery. (For people with heart or vascular risk factors, Goshen Hospital also offers a set of four free screenings when requested by a primary care provider.)

Although Greg has told his story to dozens of friends and family, he knows some won’t get the screening. They may hesitate because of concerns about time or money. Or they fear what they will hear.

“It just depends on what life is worth to you,” he said.

Greg is convinced the test saved his life. And for him, $49 was well worth it.

Talk to your primary care provider about your risk factors for heart disease and, which if any, screenings are recommended for you. You may be eligible for the set of four free screenings or, like Greg, the calcium scoring test may be the best initial screening to evaluate the health of your heart and vascular system.