No matter how healthy you think you are, your knees will knock a little bit on the day your heart gets scanned for possible blockage. But coming from a family with a history of heart attacks, living a fairly fast but deadline-stressed life, and already dinged by a doc for having elevated triglycerides, I was especially nervous to visit the new HealthWave facility on upper State Street, where my coronary arteries would be examined for calcium buildup with an electron-beam tomography (EBT) machine. It’s pretty uncommon to find those deposits — which are what cause the vast majority of heart attacks — in a 35-year-old, but that only made me more anxious: If I was already collecting coronary calcium, I had some life-changing days ahead of me to ensure that there wouldn’t be a life-ending one anytime soon.
This is the whole point behind getting scanned like this in the first place, according to HealthWave’s owner Dan Parker, a former rock ‘n’ roll pro (first came to Santa Barbara with Beach Boy Mike Love) who went into audio-video and learned about calcium scoring while filming cardiology conferences in the late 1990s. “My reaction was: Who would not want to know that?” recalled Parker, who then investigated EBT machines and found them to be “elegant technology” with “bulletproof” results. Soon after, he started touring California on an EBT road show of sorts, eventually scanning 6,000 people in three years from San Diego to Reno, Nevada, including stops at Earl Warren Showground. Last year, Parker gave the EBT machine a permanent home in Santa Barbara, giving us a new option to confront health issues before they kill us.
“This is truly 21st-century medicine,” said Parker, explaining that EBT scans are now frequently requested by cardiologists, as they are quicker (20 minutes max), easier (no claustrophobic tube, just about 45 seconds of holding your breath), and involve far less X-ray radiation than CT scans. “Calcium scoring was controversial 10 years ago, but that’s done now.”
Also invested in the project are husband-and-wife doctors Mike and Mary Dan Eades, nutritional experts who previously ran clinics in Colorado and Arkansas and started the country’s meat-is-good-for-you trend with the 1997 publishing of Protein Power, a bestseller that inspired today’s caveman diet craze. They’re loud proponents of the preventative possibilities of EBT scanning, arguing that the medical world’s long-held adherence to tracking cholesterol to predict heart health is basically bunk and that there are lots of people taking risky, expensive statin drugs who don’t need them. “You can see everything from lips to hips basically,” said Mary Dan Eades of the machine, which also can conduct a virtual colonscopy, check for osteoporosis with bone density tests, and fully examine your lungs for problems, among other techniques. “It’s a whole new world in what you can determine and what you can do about it.”
So why is this the only one on the Central Coast and one of only about 145 worldwide? Because, according to Michael Eades, they are a real threat to the profitable CT scan industry, in that EBTs — which don’t rely on many moving parts — last for decades whereas CT scanners need to be replaced every three years. “The modern medical industry is in the Band-Aid business,” said Parker, who offers the calcium-score scan for $395. “We at HealthWave want to be in a new business, which is getting the knowledge known and acting on it appropriately.”
Happily for me, my scan came back showing no calcium whatsoever. Now it’s my job to keep it that way.
See healthwavesb.com, call (805) 682-1023, or visit 3892 State Street, Suite 101.