Paul Maguire almost became a statistic of a disease he'd never heard of.

After playing football at The Citadel and a decade in the professional ranks, Maguire lived the life of the traveling sportscaster for four decades before slowing down with a lighter schedule and a beach house on the Isle of Palms.

While the jovial Maguire figured he'd dodged the worst when he had a heart bypass, he wasn't expecting a condition known as an abdominal aortic aneurysm to threaten his life.

"I had no symptoms, no pain, nothing," the 71-year-old Maguire said. "Until the doctor pushed on my stomach and it hurt."

Turns out Dr. Bruce Elliott, a professor and chief of vascular surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina, diagnosed this little-known but possibly fatal condition.

"Did he save my life?" Maguire said with his usual animation. "Heck, yeah, he saved my life. It's what he does."

Silent killer

Here's what Maguire found out that could save your life as well.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the body's main artery that carries blood away from the heart to the lower part of the body. Over time, the vessel wall can weaken and burst unexpectedly.

This is the cause of many sudden deaths, according to Dr. Elliott, who said more than a million people are living with an undiagnosed aneurysm.

"If that aneurysm bursts, only 10 to 25 percent of people will survive," Elliott said.

The risk for such an aneurysm increases for individuals over age 60 who have a history of smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of the disease.

As it turned out, Elliott was able to repair Maguire's artery through surgery and now the popular announcer wants to help encourage others to get checked for this condition known as a "silent killer."

To that end, the Medical University and Roper St. Francis Healthcare have joined in an effort called "Find The AAAnswers," and will conduct free screenings for Charleston-area residents at MUSC's Ashley River Tower on Courtenay Drive from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. June 5.

Please pre-register at 843-876-5146 (option No. 2).

Valet parking

The screening process is quick and non-invasive, according to Elliott. It involves a simple ultrasound of the abdomen similar to a pregnancy ultrasound and takes less than 15 minutes.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm is the third-leading cause of sudden death in men over 60 with incidents expected to increase significantly as the Baby Boomer generation ages.

"Hey, it's a free service, there's free valet parking and it might save your life," Maguire said. "This is the best deal in town."