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Screening acts as a helpful reminder to take care of your heart
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There was steady foot traffic into East Tennessee Medical Group on Saturday, March 1, all from members of the community who were interested in preserving one of the most crucial aspects of their lives – the health of their hearts.

“They asked a lot of great questions,” said Blount Memorial cardiologist Dr. Jane Souther. “I think they were very engaged and very interested in what we were doing. They seemed very appreciative,” she added.

For the second year in a row, Blount Memorial Hospital hosted a Vascular and Heart Health Screening event that caught the attention of the community. For more than two weeks prior to the event, hundreds of people called to register themselves and their loved ones for cardiac risk analyses, echocardiograms and vascular tests, all of which were offered to the public at absolutely no cost. In addition to the free tests, guests also were given the opportunity to discuss their heart health one-on-one with Blount Memorial physicians and staff members, all while receiving additional helpful information at the event’s accompanying health expo and education fair.

“These are very important community events, and are great services to the community,” Souther said. “It gives people the opportunity come in and be screened for different vascular diseases that they might not be aware that they have. We found some abnormalities in some cases, and we will be able to send people on to the appropriate physicians for further testing or treatments,” she explained. “A lot of people there told me that they did not have insurance. They were very grateful to us for providing those types of services to them because it allowed them to get some important screening that would help them decide if they needed to go on and have further follow-ups that they would not have otherwise gotten,” she added.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Sometimes heart and vascular conditions only are detected when a medical emergency occurs, which often can be too late, making them silent killers. Knowing your risk factors can help save your life.

“People need to get their blood pressure screened periodically,” Souther said. “We like to see pressure consistently below 130 over 80. One of the tests we did on Saturday was a cholesterol test. We are very aggressive about that because cholesterol is a major component of plaque in the vessels, not just to the heart, but also to the head and legs. Also, everyone should be on the lookout for the classic signs of a heart attack – discomfort in the chest, particularly when they get up to do something, or shortness of breath that’s out of proportion to the activity that they’re doing, indigestion that won’t go away, and feelings of faintness. Stroke also is a huge contributor to heart disease and can be a sign of vascular problems in the head. The signs for stroke, of course, include vision changes, speech changes, and weakness or numbness on one side. On the peripheral end of things, pain in the calves of the legs that arises when you walk, but then goes away when you sit down can be a sign of blockage in the vessels to the legs. This is known as peripheral vascular disease or Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD),” she explained. “Diabetes also is a huge risk factor for vascular disease, and elevations in blood sugar levels can be a signal that you need to start visiting your physician regularly and focus on diet and exercise,” she added.

Overall, Souther says Saturday’s screening had two-fold benefits. “The number of people who thanked us for being there was huge,” she said. “People were very interested in going from table to table looking at the displays that were there. It’s always fun to sit and talk to people about their different problems. Sometimes, you can convince people to go to the doctor who were maybe on the fence about whether they needed to go and get something checked. Hopefully, we were able to make a positive impact on the future of their health care,” she added.

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