A visit to a free screening at Cardiovascular Institute of the South changed everything for Katie Guidry.
Having just entered her 40s, and considering her family history of heart disease, she thought it might be time for a baseline screening. “Heart disease runs in my family on my father’s side, so that was always a concern of mine. But like most, I put off getting screened before, since I had zero symptoms.” Katie felt that she was maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As a full-time caregiver to her husband who is a quadriplegic, she stays both busy and physically active, in addition to taking Pilates regularly. “I had no risk factors other than genetics,” she explained. “But I didn’t want anything to surprise me later on.”
Katie decided to attend a free cardiovascular screening being held at Cardiovascular Institute of the South in Lafayette. “CIS made it easy. I registered online, and I was in and out in 30 minutes.” She breezed through the testing—which included an electrocardiogram (EKG), carotid ultrasound, and blood pressure screening—with no signs of concern. A CIS nurse practitioner sat down with Katie to review her results. As they discussed her risk assessment, the topic of her family history came up. The NP recommended that she have a calcium score screening to give her a more accurate picture of her heart disease risk. A calcium score uses computerized tomography (CT) to detect plaque buildup in the coronary arteries, and the higher the score, the higher the risk of a heart attack.
Katie returned to CIS a couple weeks later for her calcium score. “Again, my visit was very easy, and it only cost me $50,” she recalled. “It was mainly for peace of mind.” Her results showed an ideal score of zero, meaning no plaque buildup in her arteries. But this time, something of concern surfaced. The imaging showed an area of concern in her aorta and left ventricle. “They told me it appeared that I had an enlarged aorta, though that was not the main function of the test,” she said. Further testing with CIS interventional cardiologist, Dr. Gus Ingraldi, proved that Katie did in fact have an enlarged aorta as well as an enlarged left ventricle. Dr. Ingraldi determined that the enlargement was due to a moderate-to-severe leaky valve—which was not an immediate concern, but may need to be repaired years down the road. “He was very genuine,” she said of Dr. Ingraldi. “I was very impressed that he called me personally to explain the results and what we could do about them.”
She continues to visit CIS regularly for checkups to ensure that her new-found condition remains under control. She has peace of mind that her condition is fully monitored and managed by her care team. “I trust CIS, and I feel completely comfortable with both Dr. Ingraldi and the nurse practitioners who provide my care. I have never worried about getting another opinion,” she said.
“Katie’s situation demonstrates the importance of regular screenings and early detection,” said Dr. Ingraldi. “The best way that we can fight heart disease is to prevent it and treat it in its earliest stages. No matter your age or risk factors, it is important to see a cardiologist to monitor your risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.”
In retrospect, Katie is thankful she took the step to get screened. She feels at ease that this problem was found before she experienced symptoms or any type of cardiac event. “Many of us without any symptoms or health issues don’t take the time to have a screening. But these free screenings are not just a gimmick to get you into their office. There is absolutely no other way I ever would have known I had this.”
In addition to her support of preventative screenings, Katie’s role as a caregiver for the past 10 years also drives her to encourage other caregivers or mothers to put their own health at the forefront, rather than on the backburner. “As caregivers, we tend to put off our own care,” she said. “We are always thinking three steps ahead. But you have to take care of yourself to take care of them.” Katie said that, earlier in life, she identified as a wife and not so much a caregiver. But when she began to recognize her role as a long-term job, she realized it was a marathon. “I had to think about the future and the importance of my own health. I’m allowed to take care of my body and my mind, and I can be proactive for myself and the person I’m caring for. You have to maintain your health.”
Since Katie’s heart condition can be exacerbated by stress, she has made a conscious effort to incorporate more meditation, yoga and self-care into her daily routine. She especially enjoys using what spare time she has to volunteer for the Junior League of Lafayette. She is also a fellow for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation for military caregivers.
By taking care of herself, Katie maintains both her physical and mental health, and her peace of mind. By being proactive, she was able to identify an issue before it became a problem. And she plans to stay the course.
Click here to find a list of upcoming events and screenings. Click below to schedule an appointment with a CIS cardiologist near you.