Friday, March 18, 2011

Some exceptionally good news

kw: health

A couple of weeks ago I went into central Philadelphia at my doctor's request to have the HeartCam™ perform a scan of my heart. This test uses ultra-fast, EKG-synchronized CT scanning to detect calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. Scores called "Positive" range from 1 to over 1,000. The great news is my score was zero.

These are a few of the images of my heart and lungs. The heart is the gray blob at the center. The upper two images are near the top of the heart, where trouble usually first appears, and the lower two are more in mid-heart. To see what calcium looks like, just look to the far right where a couple of my ribs are shown. The entire lack of bright white spots on the heart images indicates the happy (Negative) result.

The test took just a few minutes. I had to hold my breath, once for ten seconds and once for forty seconds. The scans are synchronized with the beat of the heart and are made when the heart is in a resting phase, where its position is most reliably the same from beat to beat. They call the technique EBCT because, rather than spin an x-ray tube around the patient, there is actually a huge tube with an x-ray producing electrode that wraps around below, and a fast electron beam (EB) makes a very fast swipe for each scan. The recording devices are stationary, and positioned above. Very clever engineering.

The zero score means I get a gold star (shown at the bottom of the chart). 75% of men my age have a calcium score of 12 or greater, and 10% have a score of 1,000 or greater. The percentiles they use are measures of "percent with a score less than X", so I converted them.

I feel very fortunate. I attribute it to good genes and God's care, and partly to a healthy lifestyle. This doesn't mean I can just go out and eat all the steak and potatoes I want. I could stand to exercise more, and while I lost some weight last year, I could really ought to lose some more. But I am not in any need of drugs to manage my cholesterol (it is very low already).

Of course, this mainly means I am quite unlikely to die of heart disease or stroke. One still has to die of something! With luck, I'll die of "old age", AKA general organ failure, rather than cancer. I've already had that, and I seem to have it beat. But this is one possible worry that has been taken right out of the running.

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