The best way to prevent heart disease is by understanding its symptoms and managing your level of risk. Monitoring factors like blood pressure and cholesterol can help determine if you need to make any lifestyle modifications or seek treatment for potential heart conditions.
For many, this can be as simple as scheduling an annual checkup with your doctor. However, a more comprehensive approach can help you detect disease in its earliest stages – or even prevent it altogether. In today’s blog, we highlight five screenings that can put you back in the driver’s seat of your health.
(Free download: How to Assist a Loved One After a Heart Attack)
Did you know more than 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease? It’s the leading cause of death, but many don’t know they have it because they aren’t experiencing symptoms. Regular screenings can help you detect and monitor your risk. And if you do have heart disease, health screenings can be used to guide treatment and track your progress.
If you’re experiencing symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath or have a family history of heart disease, we’d recommend pursuing additional tests. Here are five key screenings to keep your cardiovascular health in check.
1. Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is one of the most important screenings because blood pressure doesn’t have any symptoms – so it can’t be detected without being measured. High blood pressure can greatly increase your risk of heart attack. If your blood pressure is below 120/80mm Hg, it’s wise to get your blood pressure checked every year.
If your blood pressure is higher, you’ll want to check it more often. In this case, refer to your doctor for the best course of action. Many recommend lifestyle changes, medication or a combination of both to control high blood pressure.
Similar to blood pressure, high cholesterol is difficult to detect without measurement. It’s recommended to have a fasting lipoprotein profile taken every four to six years. This blood test measures your total cholesterol as well as your LDL and HDL levels. (You can read more on those here.) However, you may need to be screened more frequently if you have an elevated risk of heart disease or stroke.
3. Body Weight
During your routine visit, your physician may measure your waist circumference or if use your weight to calculate your body mass index (BMI). These measurements indicate if your body is at a healthy weight and composition. Obesity puts you at a higher risk for heart problems like atrial fibrillation, stroke and congestive heart failure. Typically these screenings are conducted on an as-needed basis, or more frequently if your BMI is greater than 25 kg/m2.
4. Blood Glucose
High blood glucose levels also put you at a greater risk of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Left untreated, it can lead to more serious problems like heart disease and stroke. If you’re overweight and have a cardiovascular risk factor, your physician may recommend a blood glucose test. They may also measure your hemoglobin A1c levels to estimate your risk of diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, patients are recommended for testing every three years beginning at age 45.
5. Coronary Calcium Score
Last but certainly not least, a coronary calcium scan is another routine screening to concern. It’s a simple, non-invasive test that uses a computed tomography (CT) scan to view your heart and surrounding blood vessels. During the scan, you’ll lie down and the technicians will attach electrodes. From there, you’ll pass through a doughnut-esque machine and hold your breath for about 10 seconds.
The level of plaque found in our coronary arteries determines your calcium score, ranging from zero to 400+. The higher the level of calcium, the higher your chances are of having a heart attack. This kind of scan takes less than 30 minutes and you typically receive results within a day, so it’s a great way to detect heart disease in its earliest stages.
When do I need to think about a coronary calcium score?
If you haven’t been diagnosed with heart disease, it’s advised for men between the ages 45-80 and women between the ages of 55-80 to participate in routine health scans at a minimum of 3-year intervals.
However, if you have one or more cardiovascular risk factors (like high blood pressure, high LDL, low HDL, obesity, diabetes or history of heart disease), the AHA recommends screening beginning at age 20.
A heart scan is a great way to take charge of your health and modify unhealthy behaviors as soon as possible. If the scan yields less than ideal results, you’re in a position to begin transforming your health in a positive way. Regardless of the results, early detection and treatment is the key to achieving the best possible outcome.
A heart scan may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a decision that could potentially save your life. To learn more about cardiovascular health or to schedule a heart scan, contact our team today at (918) 879-6161.
Has a Loved One Experienced a Heart Attack?
In this free checklist, we share seven things you can do to assist and encourage them during the recovery process. Click below to download your free copy.