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What Your Body is Saying About Your Health: October 29, 2011

Marian Alpaugh figured something was wrong with her heart.

“I had a doctor’s appointment, and when I went in he said ‘Marian your heart’s racing something fierce’. So he sent me right into the hospital and then of course I had all those tests.”

Fortunately she was in tune with her health. Her doctor found an irregular rhythm and was able to treat it. People could learn from her; many times your body is trying to tell you something. 

“Sometimes we meet people first in the emergency room once they have a heart attack. On the other hand we have a number of people coming here and saying you know I have that family history,” says Dr. Vladimir Ilic, a cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Doctors have some tests that you may not have heard of that are good indicators of your heart health.

One test is calcium score. Done with a simple CT scan, it shows the amount of calcium build up in the arteries.

“When you see some calcium, that’s already a marker of plaque formation. It’s very unusual to have calcium for some other reason,” says Dr. Ilic.

A second tool is advanced lipid testing. It measures the concentration of bad cholesterol in your blood.

“Not all the cholesterols are the same. So besides the basic lipid profile which is total cholesterol; LDL cholesterol which is bad cholesterol, HDL triglycerides,” says Dr. Ilic.

Another test is the carotid intima-media thickness test. It’s a 15-minute ultrasound that allows doctors to detect thickening in the neck arteries.

“Your carotid artery is very close to the skin. We can read it without a sonic evaluation we can see it clearly. You can see if there’s any plaque inside, it’s very noninvasive,” says Dr. Ilic.

These tests don’t predict a heart attack but should provide risk factors. Marian took the hint and is better off for it.

“Make sure you get your heart and all that stuff checked out at least once a year, if you have a problem then go and get it taken care of.”

Better to meet your cardiologist before you find yourself in an emergency situation.