Man promotes testing during heart month

Published 9:04 pm Monday, February 1, 2016

Bill Pollard advocates for heart screenings after a test at Bon Secours likely saved him from a massive heart attack. (Submitted Photo)

Bill Pollard advocates for heart screenings after a test at Bon Secours likely saved him from a massive heart attack. (Submitted Photo)

Bill Pollard thought he was healthy two years ago. He had lost about 40 pounds in 2012, started exercising and ate better.

“I was in the best shape since my early 20s,” he said.

But unbeknownst to Pollard, a silent killer was developing in his arteries. Fortunately, he found out about it in time to take steps to prevent a heart attack.

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Pollard, a 52-year-old father and husband who works at Virginia Commonwealth Bank, got serious about his health in 2012. He did a six-week boot camp to kickstart his weight loss, which eventually totaled 40 pounds.

“I started making exercise and eating smarter a priority,” Pollard said.

But he knew that he had a family history of heart disease on both sides. His grandfather died of a heart attack. His father has had quadruple bypass surgery, and his mother has also had a heart attack.

He also knew he had a personal history of high cholesterol.

So when someone handed him a flier about the Bon Secours heart care package, he decided to take action.

“I thought it was worth getting checked out, even though I was in pretty good shape,” he said.

The heart care package costs only $99 regularly and $59 through February. It is provided at several local Bon Secours locations, including Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View in Suffolk.

It includes a CT scan calcium scoring test, a painless X-ray that allows physicians to check inside arteries for calcified plaque, the presence of which may indicate heart disease and a higher risk of heart attack.

After Pollard had the test, he got a call telling him he needed to see a cardiologist immediately.

He made an appointment with Dr. Jun Chung, who told him that his calcium score was 1,100. A score of just 400 means there is extensive calcified plaque, so Pollard’s score was astronomically high.

“He said, ‘You would have probably had a heart attack within the next year,’” Pollard said. “I was in great shape, yet I had the potential for a heart attack.”

One of Pollard’s arteries was 80 percent blocked, so he had a procedure to put in three stents. Within a week, he was back to normal.

“If I hadn’t done that, who knows what could have happened,” Pollard said.

Since the experience, he’s become a great advocate for others getting the tests done, especially during National Heart Month, which is February.

“Hopefully, it helps other people find out if they’re OK,” he said.

The heart care package costs $99 and also includes an online heart risk assessment, personalized printed risk analysis results, and screenings of cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. The results are reviewed by a cardiologist and radiologist, and a health coach contacts patients to go over the risk assessment.

Bon Secours recommends the assessment for anyone with a family history of heart disease or stroke, a history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol, diabetics over 35 years old, a history of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and those who are overweight, live an inactive lifestyle and have high stress levels.

Call 398-4760 to schedule the assessment.