At 56, Terry Paulson had been working for the Fort Dodge school district all his teaching career.
As part of that career, Terry was active officiating football. With all that running up and down a 100-yard field every Friday night, one would assume Terry was pretty healthy. Terry thought so, too. Yet a small voice made him think he should go get a physical.
“For years we had to get an annual physical with the school, but they stopped doing that,” says Paulson. “It had been about 7 years since I had one, so I thought, ‘You know maybe I should get a physical.’” He made an appointment to see his primary care doctor, Dr. Lincoln Wallace with UnityPoint Clinic.
At his visit, all the usual annual physical tests were run and Paulson found out he wasn’t as healthy as he thought he was.
“Two days after my visit I got a phone call with my blood work results,” shares Paulson. “My cholesterol was 220. Because of my age, Dr. Wallace suggested a calcium scoring.”
A calcium scoring is a noninvasive CT scan of the heart that calculates your risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD) by measuring the amount of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries.
It wasn’t long after his calcium scoring that Paulson received a follow-up call from Dr. Wallace.
“He told me I really knocked the test out of the park,” smiles Paulson. “A normal or good score is between 0 and 1; mine was 2,400!”
The results came as a complete surprise to Terry, because he didn’t notice any symptoms that would suggest he had heart disease.
“Dr. Wallace asked me if I had any chest pain, shortness of breath or fatigue. I didn’t have any problems whatsoever. I thought I felt pretty good considering my age.”
That call happened on a Friday, and Paulson was to officiate that evening. Needless to say, Paulson cancelled.
A few days later Paulson had two stents placed into his heart by Dr. Joe Cookman with the Iowa Heart Center. The procedure would validate the calcium scoring results: Dr. Cookman shared with Paulson that his main artery had 100% blockage and another one had 90% blockage, to which Paulson responded, “Good thing I didn’t officiate that Friday night!”
Paulson also learned that, because he was very active, his heart had created collateral blood flow. Collateral blood flow is when the heart makes blood vessels to circumvent the blockage so the blood can continue to flow. After his stent procedure Paulson participated in the Trinity Cardiac Rehab program where he learned about healthy nutrition. Due to the seriousness of his blockage, he was determined to make the changes necessary to keep his heart healthy.
“I stopped eating pizza and cheeseburgers and fried food,” says Paulson. “I started eating lots of vegetables and stayed away from processed foods.” These changes, as well as continuing with his active life, helped Paulson lose 57 pounds and lower his total cholesterol to 147.
“While the whole thing scared the heck out of me, I had so much support from everyone,” acknowledges Paulson. “Without the Cardiac Rehab program, Dr. Wallace, Dr. Cookman and my wife and daughters, I couldn’t have made the changes I needed to make to get healthy and stay healthy.”
Today Paulson is semiretired and continues to enjoy life to its fullest. While he admits passing on the pizza isn’t always easy, he knows the sacrifice is worth it. Paulson also is sure to not miss his appointments with his care team, including Dr. Wallace and Dr. Cookman.
“I will forever be in debt to both these guys for saving my life,” says Paulson. “If Dr. Wallace hadn’t sent me to have a calcium scoring, who knows what would have happened to me! I never miss an appointment now. I see Dr. Wallace once a year for my routine physical and every 6 months with Dr. Cookman. I know now that taking the time to see the doctor can truly save your life.”
Calcium Scoring – Should You Have One?/Is It for You?
Heart disease does not always include physical symptoms. A calcium scoring
screening identifies plaque in your coronary arteries to helps assess your heart's health.If you have two or more of the following risk factors, call to schedule a screening.
- You are 40 - 75 years old.
- You smoke or have secondhand smoke exposure.
- Your cholesterol level is greater than 200 mg/dl.
- You have been told your blood pressure is high.
- You have diabetes or need medicine to control your blood sugar.
- You live a sedentary lifestyle.
- You are overweight by 20 or more pounds.
- You father or brother had a heart attack before age 55; your mother or sister had one before age 65.
Trinity Regional Medical Center offers calcium scoring, or heart screening, scans to discover heart disease faster ? for only $99. Click here to learn more or call (515) 574-6772 to schedule.