Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. While we remember to get our mammograms and PAP smears and other cancer screenings, why do we spend so little time and effort of the simple, painless tests to check the health of our hearts? As we get older, they become more and more important, but it’s important to be aware of them at any age. Here are 7 heart health tests we should have.
1. Body Mass Index (BMI)
One of the most accurate indicators of your potential for coronary heart disease is your weight — if you’re overweight or obese, you’re much more likely to have serious heart disease, and to die from it. Your physician may want to calculate your BMI to gauge if your weight is an issue. For adults, a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. You’re considered overweight if your BMI is higher than that… so this is an excellent way to measure your overall risk, though you can’t assess your heart health on this calculation alone.
A simple blood test can be done to check for blood sugar and cholesterol levels. If you have an abnormally high or low blood sugar measurement, or if your cholesterol is high, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease. Sometimes, these can be lowered or moderated with dietary changes, but sometimes, a prescription medication may be required, too.
3. Blood Pressure (hi Causes Stress on Vascular System)
If you have high blood pressure, you’re putting undue stress on your vascular system, and on your heart. Again, sometimes dietary changes are enough to lower your blood pressure, but often, a medication therapy is helpful in addition to a new diet.
4. Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI)
An ABI will predict your risk for peripheral arterial disease. A drop in your ABI after exercise is an indicator that there is likely a problem, which can lead in turn to a heart attack or stroke. The ABI test is simple and painless — your heart rate is taken in your arm and in your ankle at rest, and then after walking on a treadmill for 5 minutes.
Most of us are familiar with the result on an EKG, those wavy lines on paper that show what our heart’s electrical system looks like, and how it beats. By looking at the spikes and waves on the sheet, a cardiologist can see if there’s a problem, and if so, in which of the four chambers of the heart it might be.
6. Carotid Ultrasound
This is an ultrasound of the carotid arteries, looking for signs of a hardening of them, which is a sign of atherosclerosis. Since early detection of a heart problem gives you and your physician time to treat the issue before it becomes dangerous, either with diet, exercise, or medication, or a combination of the three.
7. Abdominal Aorta Ultrasound
An ultrasound of the abdomen can also detect issues with the peripheral vascular system, and again, early detection of a cardiac or vascular problem is vital in life-saving treatment.
Your physician or cardiologist may recommend other tests in addition to a combination of these, and often times, when a problem is detected early enough, there’s a chance the damage can be minimized and the risks of death from a cardiac event lessened, through lifestyle changes and specialized medicine therapies. The key is early detection, so don’t delay! Make an appointment with your doctor now! Have you had any of these tests, and if so, what can you tell our readers about them? Please share!
Top Photo Credit: nntrr91767