Sex In The City, Ninja Turtles, The Beatles, And Heart Scans

My mother was in line at Walmart when she collapsed and was rushed to a nearby ER.  It was years ago and she survived, but the diagnosis is a No. 1 killer among US men and women: Heart attack.

To make it clearer: Think of your favorite group of four – the iconic foursome in “Sex in the City” – Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda; or the Teenage Ninja Turtles – Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo; or the universally beloved British Fab Four – John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Now think of one of those four missing from the group. That’s heart disease. It kills one in four people every year.

So, here’s the good news: You don’t have to be a Ninja Turtle to fight the killer. Prevention is part of the defense.

In my family I not only have a history of heart disease but also diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. So I was an ideal candidate for a heart scan. And yes, I had the same reservations that many others have: Time, money, and results.

First about the time – I was concerned how much of my day would be taken up by the scan. Truth: I was in and out of the radiology room in 20 minutes.

Next, about money – I thought it would cost more than actually advertised. Truth: This is an out-of-pocket expense, less than $50.

Lastly, about the results – I worried that I would wait weeks to learn the test results. Truth: The technician who administered the scan met me in the waiting room and gave me a copy of my results. A copy was also sent to my primary care physician and was made available on my IU Health portal. A follow-up copy was mailed to my home within 48 hours (after it was reviewed by a radiologist).

So here’s what you need to know to be proactive with your heart health: Persons between the ages of 40 and 79 years with one of the following risk factors are eligible for a heart scan without a doctor’s recommendation: Family history of heart disease, stroke, and/or other vascular disease; smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure.

Here’s how it’s administered: You lie down on a flat surface (fully clothed), rest your arms above your head, and wait as the scan is completed. Four EKG stickers are attached to your left and right sides. You are asked to hold your breath for three sets of pictures. The first two times you hold your breath two to three seconds, the third time you hold your breath about five to seven seconds. The pictures are timed to your heart rate so that the technician can get the clearest scans possible.

My technician, Hannah Jackson has been working at IU Health Saxony for six years. She carefully explained two things to me: 1) She is looking for calcium build up in my arteries. 2) A score of zero does not indicate defeat. It’s actually a perfect score for a heart scan.

Results mean different things to different ages. For instance, 1-100 can mean mild plaque in the arteries and the patient may want to think about making some lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. A score of 101-399 indicates a moderate build up of plaque and a score of 400 and over can cause concern for a potential heart attack.

Here’s the good news: For the first time in my adult life, I scored a zero – a perfect score. But more importantly, that short investment of time gave me a peace of mind.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Find Out More, Schedule Your Heart Scan Today –  Anyone who is overweight, smokes or has high blood pressure could be at risk for heart disease. Does that sound like you? Find out with a $49 heart scan from the leading heart and vascular experts in Indiana. It’s convenient, simple and it might save your life.