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Screenings to save lives

May 19, 2011
By GARRETT NEESE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - In the western Upper Peninsula this week, scores of people sat down for screenings that could save their life.

Life Line Screening visited the area this week for screenings in Lake Linden, Houghton, Ontonagon and Iron River. The screenings were sponsored by Aspirus.

Since 1993, 6 million people have been screened. Those numbers are growing rapidly, with current U.S. numbers topping 1 million people and 20,000 screening events annually.

Article Photos

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Far right, Mildred Vargas and Christian Disbrow of Life Line Screening look at an ultrasound reading of Don Chamberlain of Hancock during a session in Houghton Monday. The screenings are meant to detect early signs of problems such as diabetes or heart disease.

There are five main screenings, all done by ultrasound: stroke/carotid artery, which looks for a build-up of fatty plaque; heart rhythm, which looks for an irregular heartbeat; abdominal aortic aneurysm, which screens for an aneurysm that could lead to a ruptured aortic artery; peripheral arterial disease screening, which evaluates plaque buildup in the lower extremities; and osteoporosis risk assessment, which measures the heel bone to gauge abnormal bone mass density.

"It's a tool; it's information to help you monitor health," said Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital Director of Strategic Marketic and Growth Dave Olsson. "It isn't going to solve it, but it'll let you know where you stand."

The set of screenings usually takes between one and two hours. In most cases, people will have their results mailed to them in a couple of weeks; however, urgent findings are given immediately.

"If we find an aneurysm, we would tell you to go to the hospital and see a doctor immediately," said assistant team manager Ellen Rippey.

Each vascular screening is available for $60, while it is $35 for the osteoporosis risk assessment. All five can be done for $149.

The clinics also added some blood screenings done in select locations that measure the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

For blood screenings, people should fast for six to eight hours beforehand; for the abdominal screening, four hours.

About two hours into the Houghton clinic, there had been 92 people.

While they take sign-ups in advance, people could also walk in.

"We always take walk-ins," Rippey said. "That could be your grandfather coming in with an aneurysm."

For cases where there are early warning signs, the first course of action should be following up with a family care doctor for a treatment plan, Olsson said.

"It's good equipment, good technology, good people, and they get results," he said. "They're finding problems with people and getting them on the right track to address that."

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