The Augusta University Health Imaging Center performs a variety of diagnostic procedures, including calcium scoring testing for heart disease. The center is located at 3722 Wheeler Road. (Photo courtesy of AU Health Imaging Center)
Jim is lucky to be alive today, but he credits a simple test with saving his life.
Unlike many heart disease patients, Jim, a semi-retired attorney who asked us not to use his last name, was a gym rat who worked out with a personal trainer twice a day and had an impeccable diet. But due to heredity, the Evans resident was also living on borrowed time. “My father died at 40 years old of a heart attack,” and he was on the verge of dying from the same condition, he says. Thanks to a cardiac calcium scoring test – a diagnostic procedure and CT scan for heart disease that detects the amount of calcium, or plaque, built up in a patient’s arteries – Jim, 60, found out he had serious heart disease.
Further testing showed “One side of my heart was 100% blocked, and the other side was 50% blocked,” he explains. “The doctors told me ‘You shouldn’t be alive.’” The normal range for the test is less than 100 of 1,000, but Jim’s score was off the charts at 945 out of a maximum score of 1,000.
Jim was admitted to the intensive care unit at Doctor’s Hospital while he waited for a bed to become available at Augusta University Medical Center. Because of COVID, Jim was forced to wait about a month before he could be admitted to the hospital for surgery. He didn’t want to stay in the ICU, so doctors sent him home with 28 medications. On Jan. 22, Jim had quintuple bypass surgery – a procedure that’s completely changed his life. He says he feels like he’s 30 again. “I have a lot of energy I didn’t have before,” says Jim. “My memory is coming back.”
The non-invasive test is one of the services provided by the Augusta University Health Imaging Center and can be performed in as little as 15 minutes. The center began offering calcium scoring testing at a discounted price of $99 (normally $199) in February for Heart Month, and that rate will continue through June, according to Lance Danko, the center’s administrator. “We are so glad to extend this quick and painless cardiac screening at a greatly reduced rate to those in our community to help promote the early detection of coronary artery disease,” says Danko.
While doctors told Jim his condition was strictly hereditary, stress can be a contributing factor to heart disease. Of course, owning a business can be very stressful for a variety of reasons, including long hours, financial concerns, and customer demands. One of the ways chronic stress leads to heart disease is by raising one’s blood pressure, according to an article from the American Heart Association. “Stress also may contribute to such cardiovascular disease risks as smoking, overeating, and lack of physical activity,” the article states.
Jim strongly recommends the calcium scoring test for middle-aged adults. “I think it should almost be mandatory when you get to 50,” he adds.
For more information on the test at AU Health Imaging Center call 706.723-8860.