Friedman had heard that $49 heart scans were available in Wisconsin where he lives, so when it was time for his routine doctor visit, he brought it up with his primary care physician, Dr. Greg Buck at Wauwatosa Aurora Health Center.
“He said based on my family history, the heart scan could determine some specific things related to my health,” Friedman said. “I called to set up an appointment for the scan and was perhaps one of the first people in my area to do it.”
Last year, Murray Friedman, a team member at Advocate Aurora Health, went to the doctor for an annual check-up. What was discovered started him on a path that he didn’t expect.
A heart scan, also known as a heart CT scan or calcium scoring, is a simple, non-invasive test that can tell if a patient is at risk for coronary heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack.
“I laid on my back, they put monitors on me, and I went into a CT scanner for my heart to be examined,” he said. “In just a couple days, I got a call from the nurse who made it clear that I needed to see my primary care doctor as soon as possible.”
The scan had revealed that Friedman had calcium build-up in his arteries and was in the 79th percentile, a very high-risk category. Four to five different arteries are examined at a time and in Murray’s case, three of his arteries did not look good.
“Dr. Buck got the results and recommended me to interventional cardiologist, Dr. Suhail Allaqaband at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. After getting an EKG and stress test from Dr. Steven Merry at Aurora Health Center, I went to see him,” Friedman said.
Surprisingly, the results showed no artery blockage or damage. It was discovered that the calcium appearing in the scan was simply from genetics and was not caused by heart disease or any other factors. While he felt relief from these results, the thought of being at risk for heart attack remains on his mind.
“My father had two heart attacks, one at 55 years old, and then he died of one at the age of 82,” he said. “This really scared me and drove me to become very careful in terms of my diet and exercise.”
That’s what helps gets Friedman on his treadmill or exercise bike nearly every day. He also modified his diet with fruits and vegetables, heart healthy foods like whole grains and olive oil, and eliminated all red meat consumption. His doctors credit these important lifestyle changes to the status of his health results.
“Overall, I would never have known anything about the calcium build-up or had the opportunity to investigate further had we not offered the heart scan,” Friedman said. “I’m really grateful for this because it can really help people and make a difference in their lives.”