Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lifeline screening (Cholesterol Screening, Blood Glucose Screening, etc)

Several weeks ago, I was riding in my car and, while listening to the radio, I heard a commercial that grabbed my attention. The commercial was for Lifeline Screening, a service that allows a person to have certain tests performed that, under most circumstances, a doctor would not ordinarily prescribe unless the individual was clearly symptomatic.

I immediately wrote down the number, called it later, and set up an appointment for a screening at a location in my city.

The screening, nicely enough, only took about twenty-five minutes. It involved blood work, for which I would receive nearly immediate feedback, that would tell me what my levels were for:

1. Total cholesterol.

2. Good cholesterol (HDL, or high density lipoprotein).

3. Bad cholesterol (LDL, or low density lipoprotein).

4. Triglycerides.

5. Blood glucose (to determine the risk of diabetes).

6. Non-HDL (total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol).

7. TC/HDL ratio (a ratio of total cholesterol divided by HDL cholesterol that is used by doctors to make an assessment of heart disease risk).

The blood work also tested for CRP, or c-reactive protein. This is a protein in the blood that actually shows the presence of inflammation and it is released in response to inflammatory conditions, including burns and infection. CRP is also released when blood vessels that transport blood and oxygen to the heart have damage or constriction. Constriction, of course, can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In addition to the bloodwork performed at the Lifeline screening, an ankle brachial test is performed and this is done to detect peripheral artery disease. An abdominal ultrasound is done to screen for abdominal aortic aneurysm. And, finally, an ultrasound of the carotid artery is done to detect a blockage that could potentially cause a stroke.

So, how did I do? Well, though the on-paper results won't be received for 28 days, at each testing station, I was informed that no abnormalities had been detected. In other words, I don't seem to have periperal arterial disease and don't seem to be at risk for a stroke or abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The bloodwork, however, was a bit different. My hs-CRP (c-reactive protein) score was very good. And my HDL (good cholesterol) count was about where it needs to be. However, I need to work on lowering my blood glucose and total cholesterols levels a bit. Neither were particularly high and only need slight modification. However, after years of reading medical records, I am too familiar with the consequences of high cholesterol and high glucose (which brings a risk of Diabetes). Therefore, I will be adjusting my diet to include fewer processed foods,less red meat, more chicken and fish, and more foods that have lower glycemic values. In other words, bye bye french fries.

All in all, I would say the Lifeline Screening service is an excellent option for those who are interested in preventative maintenance. You get the kind of testing that a doctor may not want to order unless you are already noticing symptoms. And, in my opinion, that's too late, particularly for individuals with a history of stroke, diabetes, or heart disease. For me, getting this kind of screening advised me of A. where I am currently and. B. what I need to do to be healthier so I can live a longer and healthier life.

I would definitely recommend getting this type of screening. My only complaint about the entire screening process was that I was one of the few individuals in attendance who was under the age of 60. That's unfortunate, because individuals as young as thirty need to get screened, particularly, as I've said before, if they have a family history of such problems.

Why is early screening good? Because individuals at risk for stroke, heart disease, peripheral artery disease, and diabetes can strongly lessen their risk by getting needed medications early, or, in many cases, by taking the necessary steps to modify their activity (exercise) and diet (eating better).

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