Charlie Beahm is a tough guy. He's not one to go to the doctor or complain about aches and pains. After being retired for 10 years, his sister urged him to get a physical because he wasn't feeling well and hadn’t gone to the doctor for years.
"After my physical, I ended up in a cardiologist's office. He had me get a cardiac catheterization at the Sentara Heart and Vascular Center at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center," says Charlie, a Lorton resident. "They found out I had a heart attack and didn’t even know it."
"We saw that his arteries were blocked, too," explains Dr. Khalid Abousy, a cardiologist with Virginia Cardiovascular Care. "Because of this, and his family history of heart disease, we placed him on medications to decrease his risk of having another heart attack or a stroke."
Avoid the "part of getting older" mentality
Charlie's symptoms were vague and sporadic. He didn’t experience chest pain or the other more common heart attack symptoms. He just wasn’t feeling well.
"Even though I'm retired I do a lot of physical work," says Charlie. "I don't live a sedentary lifestyle, and I usually feel pretty good, so I didn't have any idea that I may have had heart problems."
According to Dr. Abousy, Charlie's inaction is common.
"Many people write off aches and pains as 'part of getting older'," he says. "But it's important to have regular checkups and to pay attention to what your body is telling you. In Charlie's case, there is a significant family history of heart disease, which is an important indicator. A family history increases your risk, even if you have no symptoms or risk factors."
Even though he received a big surprise, Charlie is glad that he came in for the procedure.
"Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like hospitals, but I had a good experience here," says Charlie. "The staff in the heart center treated me well, and they were nice."