It’s the kind of call no one wants to receive.
Mix 94.7 morning co-host Alex Franco was on the road back to Austin after a visit to Dallas when he learned from a hospital chaplain that his brother, David, had just had a massive heart attack.
“I was at an exit right outside of Waco,” Franco said. “My heart just dropped when I heard the news. It just kind of came out of nowhere. It didn’t sound good.”
The situation was so severe, Franco learned, that David had to be flown from a Houston hospital to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston by helicopter for treatment.
Franco says his brother didn’t really meet any of the common risk factors. He wasn’t overweight. He wasn’t overly stressed. And he was only 47 years old at the time.
None of that mattered though.
“He had a pacemaker put in,” Franco said. “He had to change his whole lifestyle – and he didn’t have a bad lifestyle before.”
It was that scare that ultimately prompted the radio host to get his own heart checked out at Heart Hospital of Austin, where he underwent the HeartSaver CT test.
“As a male, we tend to procrastinate,” Franco said. “I realized I was taking my heart for granted. I was taking my body, my health for granted. It’s not just me. I have a wife, a 3-year-old boy and a 1-year-old daughter.”
The test only took about five minutes and when he got the results, there was no cause for alarm.
“I’m good,” he said. “I’m clear.”
Dr. Vivek Goswami was Franco’s doctor at Heart Hospital of Austin, where the HeartSaver CT has been performed for about a decade. He says the test is a noncontrasted CT scan that looks for calcium in arteries. It provides patient and doctor both with a numeric score – the higher the score, the higher the risk.
Dr. Goswami suggests the procedure become common practice, much like mammograms and prostate exams.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, killing more people than cancer, car accidents, infections and suicide,” Dr. Goswami said. “We aren’t routinely doing anything to screen heart disease, even though it’s more likely to kill Americans.”
Everyone eventually develops plaque, Dr. Goswami said, but the amount can vary greatly. Ways to combat the risks it poses include better eating, aerobic exercise and, in some cases, taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.
First, though, before determining a course of action, doctors need facts – facts Franco says the HeartSaver CT provides.
“I know, in Austin, we’re all busy, but I really hope others will do this,” Franco said. “If something bad turns up, it can be handled. I don’t want anyone to ever have to deal with the alternative. Nobody should have to go through that.”