4 Benefits of Heart Screenings

Cardiac screening is one of the best things you can do for your heart and for your health.

Heart screenings are a type of non-invasive, high speed, low radiation imaging technique that creates detailed images of the heart and blood vessels serving the heart. The technology images high and/or irregular heartbeats often associated with patients with developing or advanced heart disease. Doctors use heart screening to detect signs of premature heart and vascular disease, known together as cardiovascular disease, long before patients develop symptoms.

Top 4 Benefits of Heart Screening

  1. Provides a complete picture of your cardiovascular risk.

    Your doctor assesses your risk of cardiovascular disease by assessing your risk factors by ordering blood tests, such as cholesterol screening, performing an examination, and reviewing your personal and family history. Heart screening gives your doctor more information to calculate your risk of heart disease. In fact, heart screenings with EBCT heart scans are up to 10 times more accurate than the use of traditional risk factors.

    Heart screenings are especially beneficial for people with certain risk factors. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are the key risk factors for heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), and nearly half of all Americans have at least one of those three. Diabetes, overweight and obesity, poor diet, inactivity, and excessive alcohol intake are also risk factors.

  2. Identifies problems.

    Heart screenings can help identify specific problems early, when most conditions are easier to treat. These screenings can detect the presence of plaque in the arteries that bring blood to the heart, for example, which can lead to heart attacks.

  3. Helps you beat the odds.

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and it is a major cause of disabilities.About 47 percent of heart attacks occur outside of hospitals, which suggest that many people do not act early on warning signs. Heart screening alerts you to signs of premature, pre-symptomatic cardiovascular disease so you can take action early, before you have a heart attack or develop another type of heart disease.

  4. Gives peace of mind.

    Heart screening provides reassurance that you are on the right path to a healthy heart or encouragement to take stronger actions.

For more information on the benefits of heart screenings, talk with your doctor or health care professional. Set up an appointment with Virtual Imaging today!

How Pollen Season Affects Your Lungs

Ah, spring is in the air! And, unfortunately, so are pollens and other allergens.

As flowers, weeds, grass, trees and other plants bloom, they release pollen into the air. This typically happens in the spring, summer, and fall. The exact dates of pollen allergy seasons differ, depending on where you live. It also depends on what types of pollens you are allergic to, as different plants bloom at different times of the year.

The Effects of Pollen on Your Lungs

Pollen grains are too large to fit into your lungs. When pollen grains land in your nose, however, they release a cocktail of smaller particles that are tiny enough to inhale deeply into your lungs. These smaller particles are coated with allergy-stimulating proteins. As they travel down your airway to your lungs, the particles meet with the IgE antibodies that detect the allergy-stimulating proteins.

Normally, your immune system produces antibodies to protect you from dangerous bacteria, viruses or other toxins. When these antibodies detect a foreign invader, they launch an immune response to kill the toxin by telling your body to release chemicals. An immune response in your respiratory tract usually causes inflammation, which leads to nasal congestion, sinus pressure, a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, a scratchy throat, and a cough.

But if you have an allergy to pollens, your body mistakes harmless pollen for a serious toxin. This means your body launches an immune reaction whenever your IgE antibodies detect the proteins in the pollen particles. Just as if your immune system were defending your body from a dangerous virus or bacteria, you experience symptoms in your upper respiratory tract.

Inhaling pollen particles deep into your lungs can set off the immune response there, causing irritation and swelling in lung tissue. The tissue in your airways is different from the tissue in your nose; smooth muscle lines the bronchial tubes that carry air into your lungs. Some of the chemicals released by an immune response in your lungs cause the smooth muscle cells to contract. If you have asthma, the muscle contractions cause air to whistle through the constricted pipes, which leads to wheezing.

You may not need treatment for mild pollen allergies; over-the-counter medications may help. If you have severe allergies, or have asthma and are wheezing, you should consult with your doctor or allergist. Medications and treatments can help reduce the symptoms of allergies to help you breathe better. Set up an appointment with Virtual Imaging today to learn more about lung health.

Are You About to Have a Medical Screening? Here Is What You Need to Know About the Process

Medical screenings help you stay healthy by identifying the possible presence of an as-yet diagnosed illness, even before you experience signs or symptoms. Your doctor may recommend medical screenings, or you might ask your doctor for them.

About Medical Screenings

There are several types of medical screenings. Blood tests can screen for high cholesterol, diabetes, and other metabolic conditions. Imaging tests can detect heart disease, colon cancer, lung cancer, and other types of cancer. The type of medical screening you need depends largely on your age, gender, personal medical history, family medical history, and other risk factors.

Blood tests for cholesterol, diabetes, and many other conditions require fasting, which means you should not eat or drink anything but water for 8 – 12 hours prior to the test. Take all medications as normal, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor, nurse, or laboratory tech scheduling the appointment. Bring something to snack on after the test if you tend to feel weak when fasting, especially if you do not have someone to drive you home. Not all screening tests require fasting, though, so consult with your doctor or lab when scheduling your test.

Some types of imaging tests require fasting and special preparation, or “prep,” to ensure that your bowels are sufficiently empty for the test. The prep is usually in the form of a liquid that you drink or an enema, or both. Many types of imaging tests for screening require fasting for three or more hours without a prep so that radiologists can use a special contrast dye.

Colonoscopy is a common screening test in which doctors can detect colorectal cancer early. In this test, the doctor uses a scope to look inside the rectum and colon. The test can show ulcers, swollen and irritated tissue, polyps, and other signs of cancer.

Certain tests, such as the EBCT Virtual colonography, EBCT Heart Scan, EBCT Full Body Scan, and EBCT Lung Scan require either minimal preparation or no preparation at all. These non-invasive tests use computed tomography (CT) technology. Most EBCT scans do not require any special preparation – only the full-body scan requires fasting and a special prep; your doctor or imaging professionals will provide you with more information about preparing for this test.

For more information on what you can expect during the screening process, consult with your doctor. The more you prepare for your screening test, the more accurate the results may be. Contact Virtual Imaging today for more information by calling 770-730-0119.

Colon 101

The colon is an important, but often overlooked, part of the digestive tract.

The colon, also known as the large intestine, is the final part of your digestive tract. Its main jobs are to reabsorb liquid and process wastes for elimination from your body. Your large intestine stores waste, absorbs vitamin K and other nutrients, and helps maintain the body’s water balance. Your colon also provides a home for beneficial bacteria that help fermentation, or break down, and absorption of nutrients other parts of your digestive tract could not absorb.

Other parts of your digestive tract include your stomach and small intestine. Together, your stomach, small intestine, and colon work to perform many functions that affect your entire body.

The Colon Performs Several Important Jobs in Digestion

The colon is an important part of the digestive tract. After you chew and swallow food, powerful muscles and enzymes in your stomach grind the food into a creamy liquid, which moves into the small intestine that absorbs the vitamins and nutrients from the food. The leftover matter, which is mostly liquid, moves into the colon.

The colon reabsorbs liquids and salts from the leftover material for use elsewhere in your body. Beneficial bacteria in the colon break down the remaining material. The small intestine can then absorb more vitamins and nutrients from leftover material before the resulting stool moves into the rectum for elimination from the body.

Importance of Colon Health

A number of conditions, such as constipation, colon cancer, polyps, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and diverticular disease, can affect the colon. These conditions can cause you to have trouble moving your bowels, suffer pain, or experience uncomfortable or inconvenient changes in bowel habits. Cancer affecting the colon and rectum, known together as colorectal cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in cancers that affect both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Keeping your colon healthy can help you prevent some of these conditions from developing; healthy lifestyle changes can improve symptoms of other colon problems. Diet and exercise play an important role in colon health. Preventive testing, such as colon cancer screening, can help detect certain diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages. For more information on your colon and on colon health, talk with Virtual Imaging today. The more you know about your small intestine, the better you will be able to take good care of it.

National Heart Awareness Month: Keep Your Heart Happy

February is National Heart Awareness Month, an annual event dedicated to raising awareness about the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States – heart disease – and ways to prevent it. Many national and local organizations recognize National Heart Awareness Month, and a number of doctors, hospitals, and imaging centers hold events that help you learn how to keep your heart happy.

More than 600,000 people in the U.S. die of heart disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which means heart disease causes about one in every four deaths in the nation each year.

National Heart Awareness Month helps raise awareness about these sobering statistics, and to bring attention to the fact that making certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of or even prevent death from heart disease.

Keep Your Heart Happy Throughout the Year

Three main factors increase your risk of developing heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Heart disease is common in the nation because nearly half of all Americans have one or more of these three risk factors for heart disease. Other factors, such as having diabetes, being overweight or obese, a poor diet, lack of exercise, and the use of alcohol, increase your risk of heart disease.

You can keep your heart happy by reducing your risk factors for heart disease. Monitor your blood pressure (BP) and cholesterol, and take BP and cholesterol medications as prescribed. Keep your blood sugar levels in check if you have diabetes.

Quit smoking if you do smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke. Lose weight, as the higher your body mass index (BMI), the greater your risk of heart disease.

Get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or engage in 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week, as suggested by the American Heart Association.

Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, low-fat dairy, legumes, skinless poultry and fish. Reduce your intake of saturated fat, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Undergo preventive screening. Doctors now use advanced technology, such as the EBT C300 scanner, to assess your cardiac risk.

National Heart Awareness Month is a great time to schedule your doctor appointments and preventive screening. For more information about heart health and preventive screening, consult with Virtual Imaging today.

5 Signs Your Heart Needs Help

Is Your Heart Trying to Tell You Something?

Heart problems don’t always come with clear warning signs. Even heart attacks rarely cause the “clutch at your chest and collapse onto the floor” sign that you see in the movies. In many cases, heart problems cause subtle signs that may not even seem related to your heart.

So how do you know when to go to the doctor? Here are a few signs that your heart needs help.

Don’t Ignore These 5 Signs of Heart Problems

  1. Chest pain or discomfort

    Chest pain is the most common sign of a heart problem. It may feel like tightness or pressure, known as angina. Some people describe it as a pinching sensation, while others might say it feels like an elephant sitting on their chest. Pain or discomfort can travel to the shoulder, arm and jaw, particularly in heart attacks.

    Chest pain or discomfort that lasts for more than a few minutes is a medical emergency, as it could signal a heart attack or other major heart problem. If the pain goes away quickly, or your chest is tender to the touch, it is probably not your heart but you should still get it checked out by a doctor.

  2. Shortness of breath

    Shortness of breath may be a sign of heart failure, a condition in which your heart has trouble pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs for everyday activity. Shortness of breath that tends to increase with physical exertion may be a sign that your heart needs help.

  3. Swelling in the lower legs, feet or ankles

    Heart failure can also cause swelling in your lower legs, and even in your abdomen or neck.

  4. Fluttering or thumping feelings in your chest

    Feelings of fluttering or thumping in your chest – or even feeling like your heart is skipping beats – may be signs of arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat.

  5. Dry or persistent cough

    A dry cough or cough that does not go away may be a sign of a heart problem. Your heart works with your lungs to deliver oxygen to the cells of your body. A weak heart allows fluid to build up in your lungs, in a condition known as congestive heart failure – the word “congestive” indicates congestion and fluid in your lungs.

If you experience these signs regularly, make an appointment with your doctor to check out your heart. Your doctor will order tests, such as chest x-rays and other types of imaging, to determine if your symptoms are actually signs that your heart needs help. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging today by calling 770.730.0119.

Are You at Risk for Lung Cancer? Find Out About Lung Cancer Risk Factors Here

Lung cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States; about 13 percent of all new cancer cases are lung cancer. The American Cancer Society says that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the nation.

Cancer is a condition characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells. These unhealthy cells can spread to other parts of the body.

Lung Cancer Risk Factors

Certain factors increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Some risk factors are controllable, while others are not. These risk factors for lung cancer include:


Your risk for lung cancer increases with every cigarette you smoke and with every year you continue smoking. Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for smoking, and is associated with 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People who smoke are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer than are non-smokers. Tobacco smoke contains a toxic mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals; about 70 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer in humans or in animals. Quitting smoking at any age can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer, but your risk is still higher than for those who have never smoked.

Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20 to 30 percent higher risk for lung cancer than do non-smokers who are not exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the CDC.

Exposure to Radon Gas

Radon occurs naturally as the result of breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks and water; the gas then escapes into the air. Radon causes nearly 20,000 cases of lung cancer each year.

Exposure to Carcinogens

Carcinogens are compounds known to cause cancer. Exposure to asbestos, arsenic, chromium and nickel can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, particularly if you are a smoker

Family History of Lung Cancer

Having a parent, grandparent or sibling with lung cancer increases your risk of lung cancer.

Radiation Therapy to the Chest

Cancer patients who have undergone radiation treatments to the chest have a higher risk of developing lung cancer

Diet and Dietary Supplements

Scientists are still investigating how diet affects lung cancer risk; recent studies show that smokers taking beta-carotene supplements have a higher risk of lung cancer.

Lung cancer screening often includes assessing a person’s risk for lung cancer, a physical examination, and imaging. Schedule your appointment with Virtual Imaging today by calling 770.730.0119.

Habits to Improve Colon Health

A healthy colon is essential for a well-functioning digestive tract and optimal overall health, so it is important to take good care of your colon.

Your colon is also known as the large intestine. It is the last part of the digestive tract, which absorbs fluids and nutrients from the food you eat. Waste material moves into the colon, which removes water from the waste to form stool. The colon also balances pH and electrolytes.

When the colon functions poorly, stool can become too hard; the resulting constipation can leave you feeling uncomfortable and bloated. Constipation can also cause hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Stool can also be too water, causing diarrhea that can lead to electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and other health problems.

Other health problems include diverticulitis, which is a condition in which pouches form in the digestive tract, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and even colon cancer.

Beneficial bacteria in the colon help synthesize vitamins, protect the body from harmful microorganisms, process remaining food, and help maintain proper pH balance.

Fortunately, you can take steps to improve and maintain the health of your colon.

Three Habits for a Healthy Colon

  1. Eat a high-fiber diet

    Dietary fiber pushes food through the large intestine to keep the digestive tract moving along. Dietary fiber acts like a scrub brush to scrape leftover stool from the walls of the colon to reduce your risk of diverticulitis and its painful complication, diverticulosis. Consuming a high fiber diet also keeps you regular to reduce your risk of constipation.

  2. Drink plenty of water

    Water helps keep your stool soft and moving through your digestive tract quickly. The faster stool moves through your colon, the less time your body has to absorb toxins from stool. Drinking plenty of water also reduces your risk of constipation. Aim for about eight cups of water each day for maximum colon health.

  3. Undergo routine colon screening

    The American Cancer Society recommends undergoing routine colon screening to detect colon cancer beginning at age 45. People who are in good health and have a life expectancy of greater than 10 years should continue regular colon screenings.

    There are two types of colon screening – stool-based tests and colonoscopy. Stool-based tests look for blood and DNA associated with colon cancer. Colonoscopy also looks for colon cancer, but the doctor performing colonoscopy can also remove polyps that may someday become cancerous.

For more information about habits to improve the health of your colon, talk to your health care provider. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging today by calling 770.730.0119.

Get Screened for Colon Cancer for New Year’s Resolution

Making New Year’s resolutions can help you improve your health and well-being through lifestyle changes. Keeping those resolutions, though, can be tricky. An astounding 80 percent of people who make New Year’s resolution break them by the second week in February. That’s because keeping resolutions usually requires hard work and lifestyle changes.

A colon cancer screening is one New Year’s resolution that you can fulfill in just a couple of days, and without any gym memberships, low-calorie diets, or long-term commitments. This type of screening can also give you the gift of being free from worry about colon cancer.

Doctors diagnosed an estimated 97,220 new cases of colon cancer in 2018, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), and diagnosed 43,030 new cases of rectal cancer. Medical professionals typically describe colon cancer and rectal cancers together, using the term colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cancer-related cause of death in the United States. It claimed an estimated 50,630 lives in 2018.

Colon cancer is highly detectable and, if treated in its early stages, highly treatable. The ACS suggests that people of average risk for the disease should start regular colon cancer screenings at age 45 and continue through age 75. Average risk means a person does not have a personal history of colon cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, a family history of colon cancer, certain inherited conditions, or a personal history of receiving radiation to the belly or pelvis.

Colon Cancer Screenings

There are three main types of colon cancer screenings: stool-based tests, colonoscopy and virtual colonoscopy.

Stool-based colon cancer screening tests look for hidden blood in the stool and abnormal sections of DNA from cancer cells. These tests are convenient because they do not require a special diet and can be done at home then sent to a laboratory, but they do not detect polyps that may turn into cancer and they must be performed more frequently.

Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses a flexible tube to examine the inside of the colon, and remove any suspicious areas for testing. This screening test requires you use fluid, pills or enemas to cleanse the colon.

Virtual colonoscopy is similar to traditional colonoscopy, except virtual colonoscopy involves a computed tomography (CT) scan of the colon and rectum. The same type of bowel prep is necessary for virtual colonoscopy.

Undergoing colon screening is a relatively fast and easy way to give yourself peace of mind over the next year. A colon screening is also a great way to accomplish at least one of your New Year’s resolutions. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging today by calling 770.730.0119.

Healthy Alternatives to Holiday Food Favorites

Holiday dinners and parties are a smorgasbord of sweet, salty, fatty, high-calorie delights that can add inches to your waistline, plump up cholesterol levels, and raise your blood pressure. Overeating at holiday dinners or parties can undo some of the progress you have made towards losing weight or leading a heart-healthy life throughout the year. Fortunately, you can always rely on healthy and tasty alternatives to your holiday food favorites.

8 Healthy Alternatives to Unhealthy Holiday Foods and Ingredients

  1. Exchange that thick slice of ham, which can contain large amounts of sugar and salt, for spice-rubbed salmon. This cold-water fish is low in calories and contains omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart.
  2. Opt for fresh green beans instead of green bean casserole. Fresh green beans are loaded with nutrients, while green bean casserole contains heaping helpings of salt and unhealthy fats.
  3. Replace sour cream with plain, nonfat Greek yogurt in mashed potatoes. The yogurt will enhance the protein in the dish without all the fat. Greek yogurt is also a good replacement for vegetable oil. Replacing 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt for every 1/3 cup of oil in baking can save about 100 calories.
  4. Yogurt and hummus are good substitutions for creamy dips. Hummus is lower in fat and has fiber, which keeps you feeling full throughout the holiday dinner or party.
  5. Replace fattening champagne with lower-calorie beverages. Make homemade wine spritzers with two-thirds seltzer or mineral water to one-third wine instead of champagne.
  6. Fill your mug with hot spiced cider instead of hot chocolate or eggnog. Hot cocoa is high in sugar, especially with whipped cream. Just one cup of eggnog can have more than 300 calories. Cider is low in calories and contains pectin, which is a type of soluble fiber that can reduce your cholesterol levels.
  7. Switch out regular potatoes for sweet potatoes, which are low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol. These delicious alternatives to traditional spuds are also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and B6. Sweet potatoes are also filling, which helps you avoid overeating.
  8. Take some of the “stuff” out of stuffing. Add nuts, dried fruits, carrots, and celery to add nutrition, flavor, and dietary fiber. Be sure to replace butter with low-sodium chicken broth to reduce fat.

Choosing healthy alternatives to holiday food favorites can save you calories and prevent unwanted weight gain. These healthy foods can also keep your heart in top-notch condition throughout the year. For more information on how to keep your heart healthy, schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging today by calling 770-730-0119.