Why it is important you get your heart screened
- Credit: Archant
Tick, tick, tick, my heart seems to be beating in time with the clock on the wall of Sidmouth Sailing Club as I wait for my name to be called.
It is Tuesday morning and the sun is shining. There are a few people around, sitting at tables. We are different ages, but we are all here for the same reason - to make sure our hearts are healthy.
I am one of 100 young people aged 14 to 35 having a free heart screening thanks to Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) - a national charity on a mission to raise awareness about life-threatening cardiac abnormalities in young people.
The screening was free because of the fundraising efforts of the friends and family of Jonathan Hayman, who died suddenly aged 27 in 2013. Through a memorial fund in his name, the Sidmouth family have raised thousands for CRY - which reports that at least 12 people a week, between the ages of 14 and 35, die in the UK due to undiagnosed heart conditions.
As someone about to turn 25, I exercise enough to justify my love of cake and expect some stressful situations as part of my job, so I felt it was important to take advantage of this free health MOT.
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After arriving, I handed in my medical questionnaire to the charity’s admin team and took a seat.
A few minutes later my name was called by a physiologist who took my height and weight before we got behind a blue screen for the electrocardiogram (ECG).
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CRY says this takes up to 10 minutes to complete, but mine was over just a few minutes.
The simple test requires you to be bare-chested, or loosen your bra, and relaxed while the physiologist connects you to a series of stickers and wires.
The bed was very comfortable, which helped me to relax and then it was done. I then went back to the gallery to wait for the doctor to call me through and discuss the results.
I got to sit down with Dr Gemma Parry-Williams, who described my tests as ‘perfectly normal’ and told me about her experience conducting the screenings.
She said: “They [individuals] have the opportunity to tell me about the symptoms they might be having. Having seen thousands of people, we can pick anything out that could be sinister.”
Most of the time, five to 10 per cent of individuals will go for an echocardiogram and in some cases individuals will be invited to go to hospital for more tests - only two to four per cent have abnormalities that need to be followed up.
If more tests are needed, CRY offers a holter monitor or exercise tests to carry out a full diagnostic evaluation.
In the outcome of a young person dying suddenly, the charity funds screening for their families and though on most occasions it is an isolated case, it can uncover any conditions in others.
Dr Parry-Williams said: “It is rare the family will report the individual had anything wrong.”
With a reminder to do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise a week, I leave reassured that I’m healthy.
Like most there last Tuesday, it will be a tick in the box of a health MOT, but we shouldn’t forget that, for small percentage, it could be life-saving news and for a 20 minute check-up it is worth finding out.
Also screenings like this would not happen without the likes of fundraisers such as the Haymans, who do not want anyone else to go through what they have.