Elaine Bryant had always considered herself to be relatively healthy. As the leader of Seniors in Motion, a Winston-Salem-area line dance troupe made up of women ages 64-77, Bryant stayed active, dancing weekly and exercising occasionally at local recreation centers.
But she also knew her high blood pressure, coupled with a family history of diabetes, heart attack and high cholesterol, put her at increased risk of developing heart problems. So, when a friend recommended she sign up for a personalized heart disease risk assessment at the Forsyth Medical Center Women’s Heart Center, Bryant, 65, figured it would be a great way to find out more about her health.
The assessment, which costs just $25, includes several simple screening tests:
• Blood pressure check
• Cholesterol blood test (total, HDL, LDL and triglycerides)
• Glucose blood test
• Weight / body mass index screening
• Non-invasive test to check for peripheral arterial disease in the legs (an ankle brachial index)
For Bryant, the results turned out to be a wake-up call.
“The blood test showed that I had high triglycerides, so in addition to my high blood pressure medication I also had to go on medication for high cholesterol,” she says. “After that, my goal was to do whatever I had to so that I didn’t have to continue taking these medications.”
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Bryant isn’t alone in her struggles. According to David Bohle, MD, an interventional cardiologist and director of the Women’s Heart Center, most of the women who have taken part in the personalized heart disease risk assessment since the Women’s Heart Center opened in February have learned they had at least one risk factor for heart disease:
• 73 percent were overweight or obese
• 40 percent had elevated triglyceride levels
• 40 percent had high blood pressure
• 10 percent had high blood sugar levels
Each woman worked with a heart health counselor at the Women’s Heart Center to develop an individualized wellness plan aimed at lowering their risk factors and was also referred back to her primary care physician for follow-up. In addition, 12 percent of the women were referred to a cardiologist for additional follow-up after more serious conditions, such as chest pain or a suspected blockage in the arteries, were identified during the screening.
“That’s nearly 20 women right off the bat that we’ve saved from having a heart attack,” Dr. Bohle says. “That’s why this screening is so important, because every woman age 18 to 88 needs to know her risk of having a heart attack so that she can start taking steps to address it.”
Since going through the risk assessment, Bryant has lived up to the promise she made to turn her health around. She began attending diet and nutrition classes at Forsyth Medical Center Heart and Wellness, where she learned about the importance of fiber and how to read nutritional labels on food products. She also started watching her portion sizes, cut out fried food and stopped eating after 6 p.m. But the biggest change has been in her exercise habits.
“I was exercising before, but I wasn’t making it a priority,” Bryant admits. “But then I started going to the Heart and Wellness gym every day at 6 a.m. for an hour and a half, and now I do something physical seven days a week.”
All of her changes have led to miraculous results. In the months since Bryant’s initial exam, she has regulated her blood pressure and triglyceride levels so well that she no longer needs medication.
And she has advice for other women who are also thinking about signing up for the personalized heart disease risk assessment. “Just do it, and don’t let anyone stop you!”
To learn more about the personalized heart disease risk assessment
available through the Forsyth Medical Center Women’s Heart Center
or to schedule your appointment, call 336-718-5748 or visit