I am 52 years of age, work in an office position and have always struggled with my weight. That, combined with a family history of heart disease, has worried me that I could die prematurely of a heart-related condition.
In recent years I have managed to drop my weight by about 28kg (adopting a low carbohydrate eating plan for some of this weight loss) and have incorporated exercise into my daily routine. However, I always had in the back of my mind that I still could have a high risk of suffering a heart attack.
I visited my GP in January 2015 for a general check-up and discussed the cardiac CT scanning idea with her. My GP ran the online cardiovascular disease risk calculator which resulted in my having a one percent risk of heart attack but, because of the family history, we discussed that cardiac CT scanning would be a positive thing for me to do. I had read about it before and had always managed to find an excuse not to go through with it; this year something made me decide that I had to do it.
I made the appointment with Dr Bishop and went along for my routine blood tests beforehand. I had thought for a while that I probably should have been taking medication to lower my cholesterol although, when I had been to another GP two years previously, I was told that because I had no other symptoms, it was probably not necessary. After I received my blood test results my cholesterol, which has see-sawed over the last few years, had gone up to 6.1, so I knew that I needed to finally do something about it.
My husband came along with me to my first appointment to see Warrick Bishop and, by the end of the consultation, we had both decided to undergo the cardiac CT testing. We agreed with Dr Bishop that it would be a win-win situation to find out our risk factors and go on to medication if necessary.
I was hoping for a miracle; I hoped that I had been worrying for nothing. My husband was sceptical that it was going to be worth it.
A couple of weeks after our scans, at our follow-up appointment with Dr Bishop, my worst fears were realised. Dr Bishop explained what he had seen from my results: I had a substantial build-up of cholesterol in my arteries and my risk of heart attack was extremely high. If left untreated, I stood a high chance of having an "episode" as he put it within five years. I needed to go on to a very strong dose of cholesterol-lowering medication immediately, and he wanted to follow up with me within three months to see if the medication was making a difference. Needless to say it was a big wake-up call for me. My husband, on the other hand, had great results: no build up in his arteries and no need for medication at that time.
I have been on medication to lower my cholesterol now for three months, and after having another series of more investigative blood tests, at my latest visit Dr Bishop told me my cholesterol has dropped to 4.1. Dr Bishop is happy with my results and does not want to see me for 12 months. I will need to continue with my medication for the rest of my life but considering what could have happened if I had continued blindly along the road on which I was headed, it may be have been a very different story.
To say that cardiac CT scanning has been a life saving experience for me is an understatement. If I had continued to put my head in the sand and not had the scan, who knows what may have happened. I am not out of the woods but am now more aware that, should I experience any symptoms of heart attack, I need to act on them quickly. It could be the difference between life and death.
I am extremely glad and very fortunate that this testing was available for my husband and me, and I extend my thanks to Dr Bishop for his encouragement and belief in this procedure.