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A 30-minute heart evaluation can help save your life

Houston, TX - 2/23/2005

Many people have symptoms of heart problems but don't recognize the warning signs. You could be at serious risk for a heart attack and not even know it.

But a simple 30-minute heart health evaluation offered by The Methodist Hospital's Wellness Services may help save your life as one local TV anchor and three Houstonians found out.

Anchorman Bill Balleza of KPRC Channel 2, along with Donald Hill, Justine Boyd and Donald Huggins underwent a variety of tests that took about 30 minutes.

Huggins' discovered that his trigylcerides were "a little on the high side," and his personal physician recommended he lower his sugar level and bad cholesterol, excercise more and incorporate more healthy foods into his diet.

Boyd's tests showed that her bad cholesterol was too high and her good cholesterol was too low, and her blood pressure was also high. It was recommended that she get her cholesterol and blood pressure under control, exercise more and change her diet.

Hill discovered that his trigylcerides were high and his good cholesterol was low. His test results also showed that his blood sugar level was near diabetic levels. Hill's risk for heart disease was so high that Dr. Christie Ballantyne, a physician at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center, recommended he get a CT scan to take a closer look at the calcium buildup around Hill's heart.

Balleza's test results showed that his cholesterol was borderline and his c-reactive protein test came back high -- 3.7. A score over 3 often raises red flags because there might be inflammation around the heart. Dr. Ballantyne recommended a CT scan for Balleza as well.

Results of CT Scan

Hill learned that he has a 25 percent chance of suffering a heart attack or dying of heart disease within the next 10 years.

Dr. Ballantyne recommended that Hill have a CT scan. The doctors discovered that Hill had calcium in his coronary arteries. Hill was diagnosed with mild coronary artery disease.

Ballantyne said that he was on the road to having a heart attack or stroke. Hill was advised to take his results to his cardiologist to determine his next course of action.

Next, Balleza underwent the seven-minute CT scan, which imaged his heart into 16 different slices.

The radiologist immediately picked up on some calcium specks in Balleza's arteries.

Balleza's calcium score was low, and it turned out that he does not have coronary artery disease. But it was recommended that Balleza "get his cholesterol and diet under control." The doctor also recommended that he get a heart health assessment every year.

Men should have a heart health assessment every year beginning at 40 and women at the age of 50.