Published on May 16, 2018

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For First-Timer, Planet Heart Experience Was Simple and Reassuring

When you write about health care every day, it gets you thinking. Sometimes you hear about a service and just stop and make an appointment.

That’s what I did after learning about Planet Heart, an Avera Heart Hospital program that gives you clear-cut information on your cardiac and vascular health. It seemed really approachable, and inexpensive, just $75 for the full menu of tests.

I was writing about the exam in February, which is National Heart Health Month. It doesn’t need to be a national awareness month to get solid information about the most important system in your body. Anytime is a good time to know more about your health.

The exam is recommended for men, like me, who are 40 or older. Women who are 45 or older also should have the exam completed, and in most cases, unless something significant is found, you are “good” for about five to 10 years.

When I called, I was lucky, as there was an appointment available in Yankton, where I work and it was just a day away, so I grabbed it.

Depending on where you have a screening like the one I had, you may need to register or check-in. At Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, that’s with the outpatient registration team, and it was simple and pretty painless. In fact, the entire process began and was over in less than two hours – it’s quite difficult to get a better response time on something so important.

Three Exams in One

The first step on the Planet Heart trail was for an ultrasound exam of the carotid arteries in my neck, as well as a look at the arteries that descend from the heart along your stomach and those in your ankles.

The ultrasound technician was great, and to be honest, I nearly dozed off due to the dim lighting and the overall relaxing setup in the room. Yes, there was a little ultrasound exam jelly to clean off my neck, but it wasn’t off-putting. The results of that part of the exam are sent to a radiologist for review, so we’ll see what the physician has to say.

After the near-nap, I went off to have a CT scan. Again, there was little if any fuss over this exam. The technician put a few adhesive monitor leads on my chest and I lay down on the scan table. There’s some whirring and you slide into a circular space, but overall, that part of the Planet Heart was over before I realized it was underway. I was unhooked and moving on pretty quickly.

A Good Discussion

The final part of the screening was when I met with a cardiology registered nurse, and that was the only part of the exam with some pain. It was just the finger-poke for a cholesterol test – that was the extent of the “pain” with Planet Heart.

The nurse and I discussed diet and exercise and reviewed the CT results – I had a zero score for calcium testing, which is the best one can get – but I do need to eat better and exercise more. I’m looking forward to getting the ultrasound information and looking it over, and also talking it over with my primary care doctor.

I was then back at work with more confidence about my overall health, some good tips on how to address the few things that were in need of some work and now I have concrete data my doctor and I can use to plot a course going forward. I’d recommend anyone in the age groups mentioned – or who has family history of heart trouble – to get into a cardiac screening.

Knowing what you face – and having time to face it properly – is comforting. And my wife was glad to know I’m not facing anything too serious, just need to lay off the pizza and get walking more.

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