Cardiac Risk Assessment
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Thank you for subscribing to Heart Health, an Avera eNewsletter that provides you with useful information about cardiac care and prevention. We believe a healthy lifestyle starts with a strong heart. To learn more about our services and community events, or to find a physician, visit www.Avera.org.

To your health,

The Avera Staff

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Monitoring the buildup of plaque in a person's arteries can help diagnose heart disease before a heart attack occurs. Avera offers an important test, called calcium scoring, which can detect how much calcium plaque has built up in your arteries. Plaque is a key indicator of heart disease. Calcium scoring at Avera facilities has helped many patients learn about serious heart conditions they didn't know they had.

Several Avera hospitals offer calcium scoring, which involves taking a special CT scan of your heart to show the amount of plaque in your arteries. A medical professional will analyze the test's results to determine your calcium score. The medical professional will then discuss the score with you and recommend follow-up steps if heart disease is a concern.

Calcium scoring is currently available in the South Dakota communities of Aberdeen, Sioux Falls and Yankton and Marshall, Minn. with more locations coming soon. To make an appointment for a cardiac screening that includes calcium scoring, please call 1-877-At-Avera for Sioux Falls, Yankton and Marshall. Call (605) 622-5556 in Aberdeen.

To learn more about calcium scoring and how to prepare for the CT scan, click here.

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Many people think heart disease is only a concern for men. But did you know that heart disease kills twice as many women as all types of cancer? It is the No. 1 cause of death for American women older than 25, according to the American Heart Association. Despite these risks, only 13 percent of women consider heart disease to be a serious illness for females.

It is important to consult your doctor with any symptoms of a heart attack. For women, this can include typical "male" symptoms, such as a tightening in the chest, pain in the arm and shortness of breath. However, women sometimes experience early warning signs such as extreme fatigue, nausea and dizziness, which can be overlooked. Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Eating well and exercising are important for women to keep heart disease at bay. Avera dietitians can answer your questions online about a heart-healthy diet. Click here to ask a question.

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The body needs vitamin D to help absorb calcium, which makes bones and muscles stronger. Recent studies show that enough vitamin D may also decrease a person's risk for heart disease, says Joanne Shearer, registered dietitian and director of Food Nutrition Services at Avera Heart Hospital.
 
Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified products such as butter, cheese and fortified milk. The body also produces vitamin D after being in the sunshine. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis or rickets, but some studies suggest that a deficiency also increases the possibility of heart failure. In one study, participants with low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.
 
The good news is that getting enough vitamin D to prevent a deficiency is possible. To get your daily dose, spend 10 minutes in the sunshine three times a week. Be sure to include fatty fish, dairy products and possibly a multivitamin in your diet. Your doctor can recommend the appropriate amount or even a prescription dosage for your body's needs.

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In Great Health online archive.