Our reporter is put through heart exam

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Last Wednesday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I am literally young at heart.

The news came following a cardiovascular assessment in Gordons Chemist which sounds a lot more intrusive than it actually is.

The test was carried out by David McCollum, Director of Cardiohealth (NI), a man whose aim is to make the country a healthier place, one heart at a time.

The equipment that David uses looks much the same as that used to take your blood pressure, except that as well as measuring blood pressure, it also measures your brachial augmentation and pulse wave velocity, or to put it in layman’s terms, it tells you how clogged your arteries are.

David said: “What I’m doing is a non-instrusive angiogram, using an instrument known as an arteriograph for detecting changes to the artery walls which usually occur as a result of lifestyle and diet.”

My examination didn’t get off to a good start when my blood pressure was recorded as being slightly above average. I put it down to the fact that I’d just left the pandemonium of the office as the paper was nearing its deadline and was subsequently in a great rush to make my appointment.

After a brief chat about some of the aspects of David’s work, the reading was taken again and had returned to normal. It just goes to show what a few minutes away from the office in civil company can do for one’s stress levels.

According to the brachial augmentation test I have the heart of a 31-year-old. Not bad for an old codger who’s pushing 35.

The test checks the small arteries to ensure they are opening up properly and can indicate if arteries are clogging or clogged.

My pulse wave velocity reading indicated that my arteries are tickety boo.

The test is designed to indicate, by measuring the speed of a pulse wave over a given distance, whether or not arteries are stiffening.

David explained there is a direct correlation between increased pulse velocity and an increased chance of a heart attack or a stroke.

I was very pleased with my results, and very surprised given that I didn’t consider myself to be in the best of health given that the two children in my house have put paid to my fitness and diet regime.

David was quick to point out that cardiovascular health is not linked to cardiovascular fitness. In other words, an athlete in peak physical condition could be more prone to a heart attack than someone who won’t walk the length of themselves.

He said: “For 50% of heart attacks the first time they have any idea anything is wrong when they’re dead.”

He added: “I am the only person in Northern Ireland providing this test. The arteriograph I use costs £10,500. That’s part of the reason it isn’t offered on the NHS.

“What I’m doing is encouraging people to take responsibility for their health.

“It’s an early warning system for people who could be at risk of heart problems.

“It can also be used to give peace of mind to people from families with a history of heart problems.”

He added: “With a change of diet in the majority of cases you can get a very positive outcome.

“I don’t just tell people they’ve a problem. I give them a solution.”