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Under the Scanner

  • Blog Post by: James Walsh
  • September 25, 2012 - 10:37 AM

The question was simple enough.

"Do you want to be scanned?" asked Gloria O'Connell, a public relations manager at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

She had sent me news about HeartScan MN, the first electronic beam CT scan in the Twin Cities and, maybe, Minnesota to measure calcium in the coronary arteries. Abbott Northwestern started the program in about 1995, O'Connell said, adding that it was pretty controversial at the time.

Now, there is evidence that such a scan has a clinical benefit for people who have "middle-of-the-road" risk for cardiovascular disease. She asked me if I would be interested in having a scan to see how it works.

Um, sure?

A little about me: I am a big guy, have been for years. But as my activity levels decreased, my weight increased. Still, over those years, my cholesterol levels and blood pressure have been pretty good. But, finally, alarm bells sounded when I stepped on the bathroom scale at the end of February and it showed my weight approaching 300 pounds.

My mom died five years ago, overweight and suffering from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Memories of my mom -- and that bathroom scale -- shocked me into finally doing something.

After a call to HealthPartners and a health coach, I started tracking my calories and exercise. The pounds, slowly, started to come off. I ate less, including almost no fast foods, few fried foods and a lot more salads and vegetables. And I started moving more. As of today, I am 38 pounds lighter than on March 1. I walk nearly every day, hit the treadmill on bad weather days and recently started bicycling, including riding to work a couple of days a week.

So, when I first gave O'Connell my answer, I was pretty confident I would be just fine.

Now? Little doubts are starting to creep in. After all, this scan is meant to catch the signals of disease that other diagnostic tools might miss. I am getting the HeartScan this afternoon. They plan to compare my results with a couple of other, anonymous, folks who seem pretty healthy too.

I guess we will see.

 

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