Is your heart healthy?

By John Haglund, Sonographer

 

The heart is one of your most important organs, which is why diseases of the heart cause the highest number of deaths in the U.S. each year. Yet, they can be prevented.

In honor of February as Heart Health Month, I’m going to share a little bit about how we at TCHC make sure your heart is as healthy as it can be with a reliable, non-invasive test called an echocardiogram.

 

What is an echocardiogram?Mother and daughter showing love by making heart shape with hands.

Essentially, it’s an ultrasound of your heart that lets us see a real-time video. It often serves as screening tests and is a great non-invasive way to look at the heart.

Echoes take about 45 minutes to an hour, and my job as a sonographer is to capture many views and measurements of the heart, such as size, thickness and function, for a cardiologist to read and interpret.

We perform echoes on patients age 12 and up. For younger kids, we typically refer them to the Cities where they have dedicated pediatric echo techs.

 

Why might someone get an echo?

Your provider might order an echo for a number of different reasons. We can use it to see if your heart is the source of certain symptoms, or to assess the health of your heart before and after a surgery.

Here are some specific conditions we might check for with an echo:

  • Heart attack damage
  • Heart murmur
  • Enlarged heart
  • Fluid around the heart
  • Hole in the heart

A common question I get is, “Can you see the arteries in my heart?” No, we can’t, but while we can’t see the arteries themselves, we can measure the movement of the walls of your heart, which can indicate healthy or abnormal arteries.

 

Patients come first

TCHC is unique in that we offer our patients an echo tech five days a week. So if you come in for a check-up and need an echo, we can typically get you in right away.

Ultrasonography machine used for echocardiogram. Ultrasound imaging used in medicine. Human heart. Four chambers.I also strive to help patients relax during the procedure by taking time to visit with them, as well as to get the best possible images because I know that things I find could affect their care.

One of my patients, Joan Bakken of Wadena, needed an echo to determine if her heart was healthy enough for an upcoming surgery. She needed results quickly, so we were able to expedite them. Joan was appreciative that she could get right in, otherwise, she would have had to drive to the Cities. Though we found she’s not a candidate for surgery at this time, the echo prompted follow-up care that she’s receiving now.

Another patient of mine, Ted Kuperus of Wadena, had an echo to determine the cause of persistent symptoms and received great news that his heart was working normally. His doctors were extremely happy about his results, so now he can move on to evaluate other areas that may be causing those symptoms.

“They made me feel really comfortable and explained what they were doing and what they were looking for,” Ted said. “They got me in right away. We had no problem with any of it. They made it really easy for me, really comfortable.”

 

Keep heart health top of mind

Your heart is arguably the most important structure in your body. Without your heart, you’re not going to function.

By offering echocardiograms to patients as screening tests, we’re giving them a way to be proactive with their heart.

I see this every day. Patients will say, “Boy, I wish I would have gone in 10 years ago and done an echo test.” We possibly could have detected damage much earlier. And then I have others who came in right away, allowing us to detect abnormalities sooner and have a better chance of saving their heart function.

Proactivity is key when it comes to heart health, as there are many things you can do to prevent heart disease and other conditions.

The American Heart Association and The Heart Foundation offer these resources for keeping your heart healthy:

Answers by Heart Fact Sheets: Lifestyle and Risk Reduction

 

https://www.theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts/reducing-your-risk/

 

 

Photo of John Haglund sitting next to the echo cardiogram machineAbout the Author: John Haglund has 29 years of experience in diagnostic imaging. He started his career as an X-ray technician and then attended an ultrasound program at the University of Wisconsin, where he was trained in both general ultrasound and echocardiograms.

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