A free, online evaluation could help you prevent life-threatening heart disease in less than 10 minutes.
HeartAware assesses a person’s risk of various heart disease, such as heart attacks and stroke. It asks for details such as height and weight, as well as cholesterol, blood pressure and family history. People identified as at-risk can choose to follow up with a free face-to-face consultation.
The program is offered through the University of Miami Hospital and is available in English and Spanish.
The goal of the program is to stop life-threatening heart conditions before they happen. Malinda Clark, director of the HeartAware program, screens all patients who choose to follow up.
“It's just so important to try to prevent that first event,” she said.
At the end of the evaluation, the program will indicate what, if anything, you are at risk for. It will also allow the participant to enter their email address if they are interested in a free follow-up consultation. Clark will receive a notification and set up an appointment with the patient, during which time Clark will examine the patient and discuss options.
The office consultations are important because Clark is able to get more accurate results by running tests herself. Many people do not know their exact cholesterol or blood pressure, and are usually off by a few inches or pounds on their height and weight.
Clark also does free outreach events at churches, community health fairs and offices. She takes equipment to measure blood pressure and heart rate, among other factors.
Clark has caught people who were dangerously close to an episode.
“We’ve had actual saves,” she said.
Clark was working a health fair in North Miami when she ran tests on a 92-year-old woman. Her blood pressure was high, and her heart rate was at 140 beats per minute. The woman said she felt fine, but Clark explained that her condition was dangerous, especially at her age.
“You can't sustain that for very long,” she said.
Clark often catches other warning signs as well. During office consultations, she asks patients if they have every felt a variety of symptoms, such as pain in the arm or chest palpitations.
“I've had people say ‘You know, I had that this morning,’ or ‘I'm kind of having that right now,’ ” she said.
At that point, she is able to get them checked immediately.
The program was launched in September of 2008. More than 40,000 people have completed the evaluation, and about 10,000 people have followed up with in-person consultations with Clark.
Clark said the consultations are a good way for people to ask any questions they may normally not ask their physician.
“Sometimes you are kind of afraid to ask the questions you actually have if you’re in a rush,” she said.
There is one drawback. Though Clark’s consultations are free, any follow-up treatment with other doctors will have to go through the patient’s insurance. For those without healthcare coverage, it becomes an issue.
But Clark does what she can, and all patients are given a print out of their results with tips they can do on their own to help their condition. The results can be printed in Spanish as well.
Clark stresses that it is important for adults to have their risks assessed, regardless of age, gender or lifestyle. The earlier risks are caught, the easier they are to deal with.
“I've had people say, ‘Oh I’m 23 what is the point?’ ” she said. “But it’s because now is the time.”