Head Off a Heart Attack

Story by Sherri Swain

Active… that is a pretty good description of Russellville resident Joel Calloway’s lifestyle.

While growing up in the southwest Arkansas countryside, Calloway enjoyed hunting and outdoor sports. As a young adult, he even played minor league baseball, and during his 35 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he spearheaded the completion of the Bona Dea Trail along Prairie Creek. Maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise became his lifelong practice.

But a little more than two years ago, the then 77-year-old father and grandfather found himself in a position he had never imagined – he was facing quadruple bypass surgery.

While turkey hunting with his father, Dr. Joel Calloway, an obstetrician- gynecologist with Millard Henry Clinic, noticed that the senior Calloway was experiencing some shortness of breath. He encouraged him to follow his primary care physician’s advice to schedule a CT (computed tomography) scan. Joel Calloway finally relented.

“I was noticing a little loss in stamina, but I had no outward symptoms of heart problems,” Calloway recalled.

The test got Calloway’s attention in a hurry. “I could tell that the results weren’t good,” he said.

“I just couldn’t believe that something wrong. I knew I was up in age, but I was running a lot and hunting, staying active with the grandkids. What they found was a complete surprise.”

The results of the CT screening revealed significant calcium buildup in Calloway’s coronary arteries. This discovery led Dr. Andy Henry, a cardiologist who practices in Little Rock and has a satellite office in Russellville, to perform an arteriogram at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center. The arteriogram showed two blockages.

Calloway then underwent bypass surgery at the Arkansas Heart Hospital. “There was a 90 percent blockage in one artery and a 70 percent blockage in the other,” Calloway said.

“When they were doing the arteriogram, I was trying to argue with them – that nothing could be wrong. That just shows that you don’t have to have symptoms to have something wrong,” he said.

Calloway credits Dr. Andy Henry and the initial CT scan, with saving his life.

“The test doesn’t cost that much and it will tell you if there is something to be concerned about. There’s no pain, and it is a great procedure,” he said.

Dr. James Carter, a physician at Millard Henry Clinic and River Valley Christian Clinic, concurred that computed tomography can be of great benefit in discovering heart- related issues, especially for those who do not exhibit many well known risk factors.

“It helped me to find out about some heart disease that I didn’t know I had,” he said.

At Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center, the HeartView CT Scan is used for cardiac calcium scoring. The HeartView CT machine takes a series of pictures of the heart in thin sections. The pictures will show whether or not calcium has built up in the coronary arteries, which is a sign of coronary artery disease (CAD).

As a non-invasive procedure, the test is normally completed in a relatively short time frame. During the test, a person lies on a table, which slides into the round opening of the machine. Meanwhile, a radiology technologist monitors the test while working from an adjoining room.

Test results normally are interpreted by a radiologist and sent to the patient’s primary care physician or cardiologist. Results are given as a score, which is based on the amount of plaque found in the arteries. The higher a person’s score is, the greater is his or her chance of having a heart attack.

In March, Saint Mary’s will offer HeartView CT calcium scoring for $125. A full lipids profile with calculations, available for $25, is offered in addition to calcium scoring.

“With the CT scan there’s no pain, and it’s a great procedure,” said Joel Calloway, who has resumed an active lifestyle and works out at Saint Mary’s Wellness Fitness Center five days a week. “It can definitely save your life.”

For more information, or to schedule a HeartView CT calcium scoring, call Saint Mary’s Imaging Services at (479) 964-9150, or contact your primary care physician.

Heart Disease Risk Checklist

More than 1.5 million people in America suffer a heart attack each year; about one-third of these individuals will die. Many victims show none of the well-known symptoms, such as chest pain or numbness in the left arm.

Risk factors that may affect you are:

• Your age. If you are a man older than 45, or a woman over 55 or who has passed menopause.

• Your family history. Your father or a brother experienced a heart attack before age 55, or your mother or a sister had one before age 65. Having a close relative who has had a stroke also increases your risk.

• You smoke.

• Your total cholesterol level is higher than 240 mg/dl, and your HDL (good) cholesterol level is less than 35 mg/dl.

• Your blood pressure is 140/190 or higher, or you don’t know what your blood pressure is.

• You are physically inactive, getting less than 30 minutes of physical activity at least three days per week.

• You have diabetes.

• You are overweight by 20 pounds or more.

• You have an abnormal heartbeat, coronary artery disease (CAD) or have had a previous heart attack or stroke.

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