Heart health screenings to provide protection against the unexpected
Written by Leo Wolfson
Sponsored by St. Anthony Summit Medical Center
Heart disease can pounce on its victims with little warning.
“There are risk factors for cardiovascular disease that people may not know that they have,” said Dr. Peter Lemis of Summit Cardiology. “People have pre-diabetes and don’t know it, somebody’s blood pressure is high and that’s a symptomatic condition, there’s no real way to tell if you have high blood pressure without the blood test.”
Since these types of diseases don’t necessarily affect day-to-day life, patients may be unaware that they exist. In fact, according to Lemis, about one in five heart attacks are silent.
There are, however, ways to diagnose heart problems before it’s too late. One preventative measure is attending one of the upcoming heart health screenings in Summit County. The free public screenings hosted by St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and Breckenridge Grand Vacations are open to all ages, risk levels and genders. The first screening is Wednesday, Feb. 1, at both St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and the Summit County Library’s south branch in Breckenrdige, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., with four more screenings scheduled through May.
According to Lemis, these screenings, “Help the people who are interested in finding out what their risks are for developing cardiovascular disease. … The first step in taking care of heart problems is to prevent it from developing. That’s why we have the concept of risk factors.”
At the screenings staff will analyze cholesterol numbers, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, body mass index and results of a lifestyle quiz to determine potential risk for having a stroke. Participants are encouraged to bring blood draw results if they’ve had their blood drawn in the past year, but blood draws are available at the screenings.
Funding for the screenings is supported by the Breckenridge Grand Vacations’ BGV Gives program. BGV was founded on the legacy of one of their former employees, Rob Millisor. Millisor died from a fatal heart attack in October 2015 and is in many ways the poster child for these heart health screenings.
“This is a very heartfelt legacy to make sure and provide so that this doesn’t happen to anybody else,” said BGV Gives program manager Deb Edwards.
Millisor, 51, lived a healthy lifestyle like many Summit County residents, running, golfing and hiking in his free time. Tragedy struck Rob unexpectedly when he suffered a sudden cardiac attack while on a mission trip in Nepal.
“He looked and felt perfectly healthy and did not know that he had an underlying condition that caused him to have a heart attack and die,” said Edwards. “While we all feel like we’re really healthy and fit at this altitude, there’s some underlying issues that may not be readily noticeable.”
Lemis considers those as young as 40 years old to be entering the danger zone for heart health risk because of the chance of genetic preconditions.
“The question was asked, could this have been prevented? His (Millisor’s) brother found without any symptoms … that he had a heart problem and then had it fixed. Otherwise (he) could have possibly faced the same consequence if he hadn’t had it diagnosed,” Lemis said.
The screenings are not intended to be a substitute for yearly check-ups with a doctor but what they do provide is extra protection against problems that may have developed during that year, and assistance for those who can’t afford to see a doctor frequently. Everyone has different risk factors so the only way to be certain that your safe is by attending one of the upcoming health screenings or seeing a doctor.
“Heart attacks don’t happen to just the older population so we want to be sure that anyone in the community can take advantage of these programs. They’re 100 percent free and even if you’re healthy it’s a great screening to have a baseline,” said Edwards.
On June 2, the annual Rob Millisor Heart Health Walk will be held in Breckenridge with proceeds from the walk going directly into the BGV Gives program. The walk offers participants two different courses to choose from with a 1-mile in-town route or a 5K trail option.
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