Heart Screenings: When & Why Are They Necessary?
Screening exams aim at detecting the presence of a disease at an early stage and treating it as soon as possible to prevent it from progressing.
According to various studies and research by the National Institutes of Health, cardiac diseases, generally called heart diseases such as CAD or Coronary Artery Disease that lead to a heart attack are one of the primary causes of death in the United States of America.
The main risk factors of heart disease include—
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Family History Of Heart Disease
- Tobacco Intake
- Lack Of Physical Activity
Heart screenings are therefore crucial for the timely identification of the risk factors and other causes that may lead to heart disease.
Who Should Go For Heart Screening?
The American Heart Association says that heart screening tests particularly for coronary artery disease (CAD) must begin at the age of 20 years.
The best way to find out and prevent the onset of heart disease is to take regular check-up appointments for a thorough examination of your overall health. These can include tests for—
- BMI: Body Mass Index
- Blood Pressure
- Blood Cholesterol Levels
- Blood Glucose Levels
Cholesterol tests and blood pressure tests are recommended for all individuals above the age of 20.
Tests for blood pressure are crucial because the risk of developing high blood pressure increases after the age of 65.
Blood pressure is also one of the leading causes and risk factors of cardiovascular disorders. High blood pressure doesn’t show any symptoms and therefore regularly measuring the blood pressure is a crucial part of heart screening.
People who are at risk of heart disease must undergo a test for cholesterol screening every 4 to 6 years. Similarly, for people who have a blood pressure level lower than 120/80 mm of Hg frequently, screening is recommended after every 2 years.
Since older individuals are more susceptible to risk factors that are directly related to heart disease, blood glucose screening is essential for people who have crossed the 45-year mark.
However, obese individuals should start with blood glucose screening as early as 40 years of age.
More complex and detailed heart screening tests are essential for—
- Obese individuals
- People older than 40 years
- People who are not physically active
- Chronic smokers
- People who have a history of family suffering from heart disease
- People with physical disabilities
- People who were diagnosed with any kind of heart disorders such as those related to high blood pressure, high cholesterol etc. in the past.
4 Types Of Heart Screening Tests And Their Significance
The most recommended heart screening exams include—
1. EKG or Electrocardiogram
An electrocardiogram is used to analyze your heart rhythm along with its electrical signaling system.
It is recommended for people who have structural abnormalities such as an enlarged heart or those with risk factors of heart disease that show symptoms like—
- Shortness Of Breath
- Chest Pain
- High Blood Pressure
- Irregular Heartbeats
- Heart Palpitations
It is also beneficial for people with—
- Family history of cardiac disorders
2. Exercise Stress Test
An exercise stress test is used to determine if your heart starts showing abnormal functions or abrupt changes while exercising.
People who are at risk of heart disease including diabetics and those who have symptoms of heart disease can take the test.
An echocardiogram is used to detect the size as well as the shape of your heart and analyze it for the presence of a structural abnormality associated with important cardiovascular organs such as–
- Heart Chambers
- Heart Walls
- Blood Vessels
- Heart Valves
A doctor will recommend you take an echocardiogram test if he suspects that your chest pain and other heart disease-related symptoms are occurring because of your heart’s structural abnormalities.
4. Calcium Scoring
In a calcium scoring test, a computed tomography or CT scan is used to find out if calcium buildup is present in the plaque that has accumulated on the walls of your arteries.
The test is highly beneficial for people who are at moderate risk of heart disease as it can accurately help in the early identification of—
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
Other than these, blood tests to measure the level of cholesterol and triglycerides are also essential because they have a direct impact on your heart health. These tests include measuring your—
- Total Blood Cholesterol Level
- Low-density Lipoprotein Or LDL cholesterol (Bad Cholesterol)
- High-density Lipoprotein Or HDL Cholesterol (Good Cholesterol)
While heart screenings are significant to help you stay away, and timely get rid of cardiac diseases, taking the right precautions to keep your cardiovascular health maintained is equally important.
Regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco and cigarettes, limiting alcohol intake and having regular checkups for a comprehensive evaluation of your overall health are some steps you can take to have a healthy cardiovascular system.
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