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Life Line Screening offers proactive step in maintaining health

Date: 11/24/2008

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

Do you know what the symptoms for an abdominal aortic aneurysm are? What about atrial fibrillation or peripheral arterial disease?

According to WebMD (, aortic aneurysms and peripheral arterial disease usually do not cause any symptoms to appear, and atrial fibrillation signs may include dizziness, weakness and fatigue symptoms one may see on any tough day.

Life Line Screening aims to help those who may be concerned about these issues by offering several preventative screenings at community centers throughout the country. One of these screenings may have saved Jim McKnight's life.

The 78-year-old East Longmeadow resident said the reason he went to a Life Line Screening event were his friends.

"I had some friends who had strokes," McKnight said, "and I saw a flyer for the screening. I thought it would be a good idea."

McKnight took advantage of every test Life Line offered. These can include blood screenings, osteoporosis screenings and ultrasounds checking for plaque build up in arteries.

"They spent a lot of time with the ultrasound checking for AAA [abdominal aortic aneurysm]," McKnight noted. "They said I should follow up on it, and my primary care physician sent for another ultrasound to confirm."

He went to see a doctor specializing in vascular health last fall, and had an operation to remove the aneurysm about one year ago.

"I was very happy with the success of [the screening]," McKnight said.

An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in a section of the aorta, the body's main artery. The aorta carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Because the section with the aneurysm is overstretched and weak, it can burst. If the aorta bursts, it can cause serious bleeding that can quickly lead to death, according to WebMD.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat, and peripheral arterial disease is the narrowing or blockage of arteries that results in poor blood flow to arms and legs.

"All our screenings are for asymptomatic persons," Kerry Heffernan, public relations coordinator for Life Line Screening, said. "Even if they don't feel like anything is wrong, [the screenings are] a proactive way to find out what's going on with your health."

Life Line brings hospital-caliber equipment to different community buildings and offers simple, non-invasive tests for those who want to keep tabs on their health.

"The entire package takes between 60 and 90 minutes, and you only have to remove your shoes and socks," Heffernan explained.

And, while she acknowledged that no test is 100 percent accurate, if something abnormal is found, the person receiving the screening is recommended to follow-up with his or her primary care physician, just in case.

"Typically, doctors won't order tests without symptoms," Heffernan said. "We're not trying to take the place of physicians, we're helping people take that first step."

Insurance does not cover the cost of the screenings, but a "Complete Wellness" screening starts at $129; the most expensive screening, "Complete Wellness and Heart Rhythm Package + 3 Blood" starts at $219. Screenings include those for stroke/carotid artery disease, stroke/atrial fibrillation, heart disease risk, elevated C-reactive protein, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, abdominal aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease and osteoporosis risk.

"What we do is affordable because we work with the community to provide the service," Heffernan stated.

McKnight thought the price was very reasonable, since his screening saved his life.

"I would recommend the screenings to everyone," he said. "I'm grateful for what they did."

The next local Life Line Screening event will be Dec. 5 at St. Patrick's Church, Columbia Hall, in Monson. Those interested in attending or learning more about the organization are invited to visit or call 1-800-449-2350.