Free Women's Heart Screening Offered By Rush University

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Free Women's Heart Screening

Rush University Medical Center and 2 BigHearts are offering a free women's heart screening on June 2, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Suite 1159 of the Rush Professional Building.

Space is limited and appointments are required. Call 1-888-352-RUSH (7874) to register.

This follows a very successful event in February, when Rush and the 2 BigHearts Foundation teamed up to educate women about their individual risk of heart disease, the number one cause of death for women

The screening includes an echocardiogram, an ECG, fasting blood sugar, lipid panel, height/weight/blood pressure, evaluation of waist circumference and BMI, health risk assessment, and a consultation with a cardiologist or nurse practitioner. Eligibility is limited to women 21 years of age or older who have not participated in a prior screening and are not currently receiving cardiac medical care.

Results from the last screening in February illustrate why the screenings are so crucial to women's heart health. Of the 142 women screened; 6 percent had an abnormal echocardiogram and were advised to see a physician; 68 percent had abnormal lipid results and were advised to make either behavioral changes and/or follow-up with a doctor; and 92 percent said they plan to discuss their results with the doctor.

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One of the many women helped was Renee Meschi. The 22-year-old from Woodridge had seen numerous doctors for several years for symptoms that included exhaustion, migraines, heart palpitations, and a tendency to feel cold all the time. Frustrated by a lack of a diagnosis, Meschi feared it was something neurological such as multiple sclerosis, which would be devastating for the young dancer instructor. Being only 22-years-old Meschi never thought it was a cardiology issue.

The screening highlighted a potential cause for the symptoms and subsequent follow-up tests determined that Meschi has mitral valve prolapse, a non life-threatening heart disorder in which the valve between the heart's upper and lower left chambers doesn't close properly. Meschi has made a few lifestyle changes, drinking more water, getting more regular exercise, and sticking to a strict eating schedule, and she is feeling much better. But the biggest change is in her spirit.

"Finally having a diagnosis has lifted a huge weight of worry off my shoulders," said Meschi. "Now I can life my life without that dark cloud of fear hanging over me."

According to cardiologist Dr. Annabelle Volgman, director of the Rush Heart Center for Women, many women ignore the symptoms of cardiovascular disease because they don't think of it as a woman's disease. However, heart disease kills more women than men.

"I want to empower women to know what they should be asking their doctors and challenge their doctors to discuss heart disease prevention. All women need to know their blood pressure, their cholesterol levels, and their waist size," said Volgman.

The heart screening at Rush will also include an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to view the size of the heart and its motions as it beats, and an ECG, which can show disturbances in the electrical activity of the heart. These two tests, which are not routinely offered at free screenings, are a hallmark of the 2 BigHearts events.

2 BigHearts was formed after its founder, Jim Clarke, lost his wife and sister-in-law on the very same day to cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart muscle. An echocardiogram likely could have alerted Gigi Clarke and Sally Czechanski of their serious heart conditions.

"Had we known about their condition, both Gigi and Sally could have sought treatment that might have saved their lives," said Clarke. "I want to do whatever I can to ensure that other families will not have to endure the shock, pain and grief my family and I experienced as a result of undiagnosed heart disease."

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