"When I was fourteen, I was home alone with my father and he had a heart attack and just died right in the same room as me," said Christison-Lagay.
In her forties, the news she dreaded was confirmed: Joan’s cholesterol was too high as a result of a genetic problem. But for years she was hesitant to go on cholesterol lowering medications, concerned about the side effects.
"I think first of all it just made me mad that whatever my body was doing, my body was just not listening to what I wanted it to do. So, it made me mad that I couldn't control it on my own," she said.
She did try eating healthy, taking different vitamins and over the counter medications. But a few months back a new test confirmed her worst fear.
"She saw some thickening and some plaque build up," said Christison-Lagay.
It's an ultra sound, called an IMT, done on the coratid artery.
"We get sort of a window into your vessels,” said Dr. Polk. "Cholesterol doesn't just pick one part of your body to stick in, it sort of does it everywhere."
The ultra sound gives doctors a good idea what's happening to the vessels surrounding your heart.
"For me, it's helpful if I'm trying to decide whether to treat a younger person, whether or not to treat a younger person. This is often a tie breaker for me to say are they at high risk,” said Dr. Polk.
What the test did for Joan was more psychological than anything. Actually seeing the plaque build up changed her perspective on treatment.
"It was at that point that I knew I really needed to address my cholesterol issues,” she said.