Free screenings highlight health pavilion

November 5, 2009

health pavilionUltrasound technician Maria Puma screens ‘AOPA Pilot’ Mike Collins for abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Free screenings, aviation medical certification assistance, exercise equipment, and lifestyle information are highlighted in AOPA Aviation Summit’s new Health Pavilion.

Cook Medical is offering free screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms to nearly 100 people during the three-day Summit. The ultrasonic screening takes about 15 minutes and is a painless procedure—I was screened myself. Stretched out on a cot in a private room, ultrasound technician Maria Puma’s instructions were no more complicated than an occasional “Take a deep breath” or, to throw me off balance, a couple of “Take a deep breath and hold it” requests.

When she was done, Dr. Paul Armstrong—a board-certified vascular surgeon at the University of South Florida—read the screening and pronounced me free of abdominal aortic aneurysms. He also will talk with participants for as long as they want, thoroughly answering any questions. The government recommends a one-time abdominal aortic aneurysm screening for men around age 65, and for women if there’s a family history of the condition, he said. Because they tend to develop slowly over time, “the chance of having an aneurysm is slim if your screening is normal,” Armstrong noted.

“You don’t typically have heart disease and not have other disease elsewhere,” Armstrong added. The risk factors for heart and vascular disease are age, high blood pressure, family history, high cholesterol, and smoking, he explained. Vascular disease is one of the most underscreened diseases in the United States, he said. “Screening is a huge value.”

health pavilionBarrett Blair draws a blood sample from Collins’ finger for cholesterol and glucose screening.

Armstrong typically does such screenings three times a year, to raise public awareness of abdominal aortic aneurysms. The Society for Vascular Surgery’s Web site offers lots of helpful and impartial information, he noted.

Across the Pavilion, Cigna Healthcare is offering free blood pressure, total cholesterol, and blood glucose screenings. Maxim Health Systems technician Barrett Blair coaxed blood from my fingertip for the cholesterol and glucose screenings, and checked my blood pressure while a machine analyzed my blood sample. While my blood pressure was slightly higher than normal—lots to do here at Summit!—he told me that it still was well within the normal range, and Blair said he wished his own blood results were as good as mine.

AOPA’s medical certification staff helped a steady stream of members with questions about certification issues, and Dr. Warren Silberman, manager of the FAA’s Aerospace Medical Certification Division, also was available. The Southern AeroMedical Institute in Melbourne, Fla., distributed information about its altitude-chamber training.

Montel Williams, the television personality who has battled multiple sclerosis and depression, is speaking at Summit and promoting his lifestyle-related products. Fitness specialist Michael Torchia is leading free fitness workouts at Airportfest at 9:15 each day of Summit. Available at Torchia’s booth were a portable total body resistance workout tool—“For pilots, this is phenomenal—they can take it with them,” said trainer Dan Long of Powerhouse Gym—and healthy food delivered to your door.