Heart & Vascular Screens Serve as Wake-up Call

Joel Higley of Windom, MN and owner of Higley Ford does his best to take care of himself through exercise, healthy eating, and regular physicals with his doctor.  When Heart and Vascular Screens were offered at Windom Area Health Outreach, he and his wife, Jodi, got signed up.  His results were a surprise, leading to better awareness and education on how to keep his heart healthy.

Heart & Vascular Screens Serve as Wake-Up Call
Pictured: Joel Higley in his office at Higley Ford, where he is the 3rd generation owner of this family-founded business.

“You get a physical every year, you try to eat right, you try to take care of yourself, but…you never know.”

A Casual Run-In

It all started at Night to Unite on the Windom Courthouse Square on August 2nd, 2021.  Joel and his wife, Jodi, got burgers and then started walking around to see the tables for the local businesses.  While wandering, they started talking to Brenda Muller, Director of Outpatient Operations, at the Windom Area Health table.  “She hands us these pamphlets and my wife goes, ‘We’re doing this.’”

Heart and Vascular screens are held bi-annually at Windom Area Health (WAH), generally in February and August.  The screens check your heart, veins and arteries for signs of heart disease and vascular disease.  For both screenings, the cost is only $50 or $25 each and they can help get a better understanding of your health.  Joel added, “Truthfully, I’m a total believer in these because we all think we’re fine.  We’re indestructible!  And we’re not.”

Surprising Results

Pictured: (From Left) Jodi and Joel Higley on one of their various hiking adventures in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, this past fall.

Joel and Jodi went in for their screenings on August 17th and he received results he wasn’t expecting.  “My wife and I are a bit competitive when it comes to these things.  Who’s got the better health score?” he said with a laugh, “And she comes out of the screen being perfectly clean and I’m like, ‘Man, I can’t believe I had some stuff.’”  After the screenings, he sat down and the results were gone over with him.  He was informed that the Heart Screening showed he had calcium buildup in one of the ventricles of his heart and that he should be seen again to address it.  “There were no symptoms.  I do cardio every day and I don’t get out of breath,” Joel explained.  “You try to eat and drink right, but that isn’t everything.”

After getting his results, Joel set up an appointment for two weeks out with Dr. Pham, a Sanford Cardiologist at Windom Area Health Outreach.  In the meantime, he had an appointment with Dr. Jeffrey Taber, his primary care provider at Windom Family Medical and discussed his results.  Dr. Taber made the decision to start him on the lowest dose of a statin drug, about 10mg, until he could have his appointment with Dr. Pham.  “Dr. Taber did the right thing,” Joel explained, “When I met with Dr. Pham, he said that’s exactly what he would have put me on if I weren’t already.”

A Chance to Learn

Dr. Pham explained what the results meant, “That’s what impressed me so much.  For 15 minutes he talked about what I have, what it is, how it gets there, and what I need to do.  It was a good experience.”  In the appointment, they discussed different types of foods that should be avoided, such as fried and processed foods, and the effects they can have.  “Everything you put in your mouth can affect your heart – in a good way or a bad way.  And did I listen to him?  Yeah.  I think about it every time I ask, ‘What are we having for supper tonight?  Fish?’”

After meeting with Dr. Pham, Joel set up follow-up appointments to ensure he was on the right path.  The last time he had an appointment, Joel was put through a stress test in addition to an echocardiogram and results came out well.  “I scored well on the tests, so I’ll probably see him again in a year along with my visits to Dr. Taber.”  Having shared those results with Dr. Taber, they’ve had discussions to keep an eye on things in their appointments, as well. 

One thing Joel appreciated was the local care and that his results could be transferred easily to Dr. Taber.  “The experience was top-notch,” Joel described, “Windom Area Health is local.  They’re right here.  Anybody I talk to makes me feel like they care.  They treat you right.”  Having that convenient care tied to local providers made all the difference.

Pictured: (From Left) Scott (Joel’s son-in-law), Grayson (grandson), Josie (daughter), Jodi (wife), Joel, Jolyssa (daughter), Olivia (granddaughter), Stan (father-in-law), Eliana (granddaughter), Brittany (daughter-in-law), Jordan (son).

Looking Forward

Joel continues to stay active by using an elliptical and biking near Nest Lake, where he and his family have a cabin that they visit throughout the year.  “They’ve got nice trail systems up there so I’ll jump on the bike and do anywhere from 8 to 24 miles.”  There are always things for them to do around the cabin, whether it’s fishing, snowmobiling, or just staying warm in the winter months.  Joel is also wanting to do more traveling with his wife of 33 years, Jodi, their three kids, Jordan (Brittany), Josie, and Jolyssa, as well as their grandchildren, Olivia, Grayson, and Eliana. 

He also keeps busy running Higley Ford in Windom with his son, Jordan.  Joel’s grandfather, Arnold, started the business in 1963 and when the time comes, Jordan will be the fourth generation.  “We’ve had good people over the years,” Joel says, “It takes good people to make it happen.” 

Preventative Care Is Crucial

The Heart and Vascular Screenings got Joel to Dr. Pham and the education he needed to know how to take care of his heart so he can keep doing all the things he loves.  “They can’t go in and clear it out.  It’s there.  It’s about keeping it from getting worse and it’s something that, if I hadn’t gone in, may not have been caught for a year or more.  Say I didn’t go in for another five years…I don’t know what it would have looked like if I hadn’t paid attention to it early.”

Joel shared, “When we’re young, we’re bulletproof.  The old saying is, ‘If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.’  As we get older, we take care of ourselves better.  That’s where these screenings came in.”

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