The last thing that my dad said to me just before he died was, "Don't let this happen to you, Allen." He was referring to dying from heart disease. With tubes, wires, and IV's connected to him, he gave me his final farewell and benediction. In an attempt to reassure my dying father that I wasn't following in his footsteps, I told him that my cholesterol number was low, my HDL was high, the cholesterol ratio was excellent, and my triglycerides were perfect-all of these are traditional good indicators of a healthy heart.

With what must have taken a Herculean effort, my dad raised his head a foot off the hospital pillow to get closer to me and shot back this startling statement, "And so were mine! Stress is the thing that is killing me."

I had always taken good care of myself. Hardly a day went by without exercising, and I usually watched what I ate. After my father's death a dozen years ago, I redoubled my efforts to remain healthy. However, I haven't always been as conscientious about reducing stress, and because of that, my father's warning has always haunted me.

Early in the spring of 1997, my family physician found an abnormal growth on my prostate during a routine physical. After an ultrasound biopsy, my urologist ruled out prostate cancer. Fortunately, the test showed no cancer but a lot of calcium.

This brush with prostate cancer and possible death had a profound effect upon me. I promised myself that I would be even more diligent about taking care of myself. Therefore, when I heard Heart Check America's advertisement for a new heart-screening test, my attention was caught. Because of my family history and stress, I took their Coronary Artery Screening test at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago.

The test gives an earlier diagnosis of heart disease than all the traditional noninvasive cardiac tests: ECG Treadmill, Thallium Stress Test, Echocardiogram, and PET. These tests are capable of detecting coronary heart disease only after heart function and/or blood flow is impaired. One can pass one or more of these tests and still die of a heart attack. On the other hand, Coronary Artery Screening gives the best picture of the condition of the coronary arteries-other than having an angiogram.

I had my scan performed just before Christmas and had the results within a week, and I learned a lot. First, my coronary arteries are in excellent shape-no plaque build-up at all. Second, I learned a great deal about coronary heart disease. Here are some facts: last year, over 500,000 Americans died from heart attacks. In a third of these deaths, the victim had no symptoms or warnings that he or she had a heart condition. Coronary Artery Screening is especially designed for this group who may not have some of the traditional risk factors.

Your heart is about the size of your fist, but it beat 100,000 times/day and pumps 2,000 gallons of blood during that time. If your coronary arteries are clogged with plaque, they won't be able to get enough blood to your heart. This can result in a heart attack as it did last year for a half million Americans.

The Coronary Artery Screening test is safe, accurate, and painless. You merely lie on a table under an arch-shaped ring and hold your breath while the scanner takes pictures of your heart. There's no injection of radioactive dye or exercise involved. You can actually be in and out of the hospital within fifteen minutes.

I have two great jobs: counseling and writing. These professions allow me to reach thousands of people and to help maximize the quality of their lives. I am absolutely convinced that Coronary Artery Screening could save your life. I heard a story about another person who was touting the heart scan to a friend. The friend responded, "What difference will this scan really make? You are going to die of something." The other replied, "Yes, I will die of something, but it won't be from ignorance."

My heart scan results gave me a new lease on life. Heart disease is one less thing for me to worry about, and I strongly recommend it for you. The test can give you information that you couldn't obtain without an angiogram. The screening could tell you that you have nothing to worry about or that you have a life threatening condition. Either way, you get some vital information about the state of your coronary arteries. What you don't know about your heart could kill you. If there is something wrong with your coronary arteries, you can treat it. Take my unsolicited advice-do something for your heart this Valentine's Day. For more information call: 1-800-NEW-TEST.