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St. Vincent’s promoting screenings for heart health month 

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

February is Heart Health Awareness Month.

While exercise and a healthy diet can help maintain good heart health, St. Vincent’s Chilton has resources to help community members wanting to make sure things are as they should be.

As a part of cardiology department, the hospital offers calcium scoring exams.

“It is a CAT scan, a CT scan, that looks at any calcium deposits that have built up in the coronary arteries,” Shanon Hamilton, administrator for St. Vincent’s Chilton, said.

The screenings have been available for about a year, and Hamilton said the community response has been good.

“It is a quick test to screen someone to see if they may have coronary heart disease,” Hamilton said. “It takes about 15 minutes.”

Although the screening is an out-of-pocket expense not covered by insurance plans, Hamilton said the $49 fee keeps it inexpensive.

“Since it is not covered, we have tried to keep it as reasonable as possible,” Hamilton said.

The information gathered is sent to the person’s physician, who ordered the screening to review with the patient and discuss treatment if needed.

Community members can call 205-258-4500 to schedule a calcium scoring exams. Hamilton said the hospital would reach out to the person’s physician to get needed information and have them order the screening.

“The goal of early detection is to identify an issue with calcification before the patient were to begin experiencing symptoms of coronary artery disease or a heart attack,” Hamilton said.

Depending on what is found in the screening, a patient’s primary doctor may order other tests.

Risk factors for this and other heart diseases include age, obesity and being inactive. There are also some hereditary components.

“This is definitely something that will make a difference in people’s lives,” Hamilton said. “… We know that within our community here there are a lot of patients that have coronary artery disease and that leads me to believe that there are probably patients in our community that have undiagnosed coronary artery disease.”

The hospital typically does 10-15 of these screenings each month.

Some of the other cardiovascular services offered at St. Vincent’s Chilton include stress testing, nuclear medicine stress testing, echocardiography, event monitoring, carotid dopplers, arterial/ venous extremity exams, pacemaker interrogations and cardioversions.

The hospital hopes that patients will avoid delaying care because the sooner issues are addressed the better. Precautions are being taken to keep any patient with COVID-19 symptoms separate from others.