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Heart and vascular screenings: What’s the difference?

There is a difference in the two screenings, but both are important to your health.

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WORTHINGTON — From diet to exercise, there are many ways we can support our hearts.

However, when it comes to catching problems early, there’s no better resource than heart and vascular screenings.

You may be asking yourself, “Aren’t heart and vascular screenings the same thing?” While they are similar, they’re also very different, says Kelsey Shea, Radiology Supervisor at Sanford Worthington.

Shea says a heart screening looks at the risk for coronary heart disease.

“We would be looking at their blood pressure. We run a cholesterol check, we check their height and weight, and do an EKG (electrocardiogram) of their heart to look at rate and rhythm,” she said. “Then, we use a tool called a Framingham score to assess their 10-year risk for developing heart disease.


“If our patients are found to be at a high risk, that means 6% or higher for the next 10 years, then the patient does a CT scan, which looks at the calcium build up.”

A vascular screening, Shea explains, is essentially an ultrasound of a patient’s arteries in their neck, abdominal aorta, and legs.

“We have vascular techs looking for any risk of stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm, also varicose veins and reflux,” she said.

Heart and vascular screenings are different screenings, but equally important.

“Your risk of heart attack and stroke kind of go hand in hand. In some cases, if you have calcium buildup in the heart, you most likely have plaque somewhere else in your body as well,” Shea said.

As we grow older, calcium naturally builds in our arteries, she said. This makes yearly screenings all the more important.

Shea says yearly screenings are the best way to catch problems early. She adds that prevention is the best medicine.

“Exercise is like your magic pill. It’s going to help with your blood pressure and cholesterol,” she said.


Along with exercise, Shea says the earlier you implement a heart-healthy diet, the better.

Heart and vascular screenings are recommended starting at age 40.

Call (888) 996-4673 to schedule your screening at Sanford Worthington.

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