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Your Healthy Family: Why even healthy, active adults should get heart screenings

Posted at 8:39 AM, Feb 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-15 12:44:31-05

February is American Heart Month, and a former professional football player is encouraging others to get their hearts screened after a screening saved his life.

Jeff McIntyre played football at Arizona State University, before going on to the NFL and playing for the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, he's an athletic trainer and coach. And his focus has always been on body conditioning.

"You don't have to move fast, you just have to keep moving," McIntyre said.

When he started going to NFL Alumni events, he said he realized that not all of his old teammates and friends were keeping up with their health.

"A lot of guys aren't doing well, some might not even make it," he said.

The league also took notice, and recruited 500 former players, coaches and family members to track their heart function. With no family history of heart disease or high blood pressure, and still maxing out on cardio and strength training in his 60s, McIntyre got an echocardiogram so he could be an example to others to get screened.

"They're hooking me up. He runs out, comes back with one doctor {and says}, take him to the emergency room now," he said.

McIntyre had an enlarged aorta.

"It had an elbow. He saw it from that graph," he said.

Before he knew it, he was in heart surgery.

"The doc told me if I wouldn't have done that, my heart would've exploded with no symptoms," he said.

His recovery has benched him from his typical routine, so he's putting his energy into getting others to make a game plan and get their own tests done every year.

"Go get one. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody," McIntyre said. "I would not have known. I possibly would not be here right now."

His screening also revealed another issue: atrial fibrillation. It's when your heart is beating irregularly, so he'll have another surgery.

McIntyre believes, especially as people get older, they should get their heart screened every year. It could save another life.