COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio (WJW) — Karen Siiman knows the impact of cardiovascular disease.
Both of her parents and her sister died as a result of heart problems when they were in their 60s. She’s lost many other relatives to cardiovascular disease, too.
“It has been absolutely devastating,” Siiman said. “I was very well aware of this family history, and I really tried to do everything I could.”
The 61-year-old from Columbia Station said she’s lived a healthy and active lifestyle and exercises by swimming and bicycling regularly. So, she was shocked after a CT calcium score test, offered without charge through University Hospitals, revealed she was at high risk for a heart attack.
“I never had any symptoms whatsoever,” she said. “I can swim an hour nonstop, no problem. So, it was a shock.”
Siiman credits the test with possibly saving her life, and she only asked her doctor to order one after seeing a February FOX 8 news story (as seen below).
“That story was absolutely essential,” she said. “I had never heard of this test before.”
In February, FOX 8 reported about Alan Studt, of Parma, whose test and follow-up testing helped doctors find four major blockages that led Studt to have quadruple bypass surgery.
“Especially for people that have very strong family histories, it can be very helpful for helping differentiate whether they’re at low risk or higher risk,” said Dr. James Cireddu, a cardiologist with University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute.
The cardiac calcium score measures calcified plaque in arteries to help determine heart attack risk and guide treatment.
University Hospitals said a doctor’s order is required to get a calcium score test, and more information is available at uhhospitals.org/calciumscore.
“It can help push us toward more aggressive therapy like cholesterol medications, being a lot more aggressive with blood pressure control and then lifestyle modification,” Cireddu said.
Cireddu noted there’s not one test that’s right for every patient, and a variety of tests and treatments are available for cardiovascular health.
After getting her results, Siiman and her husband switched to a whole foods, plant-based, oil-free diet that she credits for reducing her cholesterol by 50 points in the last two months.
As doctors continue to closely monitor her heart, the retired teacher said she hopes others learn a valuable lesson from her story.
“If you think you have any of this family history, even if you think you’re doing everything you can, this disease can still be lurking,” she said.