Cardiac Care: Screening Tests to Safeguard Your Heart
Heart Diseases & The Risk Factors
What is the average age for a person to develop heart disease? 50? 60? 65? All these answers are wrong. The CDC says that heart diseases can occur at any age. More youngsters are joining the list of people with heart issues, primarily because the risk factors causing these diseases are happening at a younger age.
What are these risk factors? There are more than half a dozen aspects that contribute to the development of heart diseases, irrespective of age. They are:
- Blood pressure
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Food intake
- Physical activity
- Blood glucose
- Total cholesterol
Your cardiac health depends on how you keep these factors under control. Preventive care plays a major role in keeping these factors in check. Having regular health checkups and screening tests is, perhaps, the best way to prevent cardiac diseases that occur because of these causative factors.
Why screening tests? It is a common question put forth by many people who consider themselves in the prime of their health because of their meticulous food habits and active lifestyles. The answer is fairly simple. Cardiac Screening tests give a clear picture of your heart's health, allowing doctors to detect any early signs of heart disease.
The discovery of serious cardiac issues in their early stages is a stroke of luck. It gives your doctors the much-needed time to plan the further course of treatment to resolve the issue and help regain your health before something untoward happens.
Let's discuss in detail the screening tests required to assess your cardiac health.
6 Key Screening Tests for Preventive Cardiac Health
1. Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a silent villain. It can remain undetected and cause the narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This restricted blood flow can lead to issues like Angina Pectoris, irregular heart rhythms, or even an attack or stroke. Once you reach the age of twenty, you should check your blood pressure at least twice a year to ensure it is well within the normal range, which is 120/80 mm Hg.
2. Blood Glucose
High blood glucose is a major indicator of diabetes, which is not an ideal condition for your heart. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can slowly harm the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart. It can also lead to other complications like stroke. Only screening tests can accurately assess your blood sugar levels. Hence, it is important to intervene early and keep it under control.
3. Body Weight
Any extra body weight translates to extra pressure on your heart. Obesity plays havoc with your blood cholesterol levels and increases your chance of developing diabetes. Excessive body weight also makes your heart work harder to pump oxygenated blood to other parts of your body. Obese people are highly prone to increased blood pressure, leading to heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and congestive heart failure.
4. Blood Cholesterol
Lipid profile screening tests measure three factors:
- Total cholesterol
- HDL or good cholesterol
- LDL or bad cholesterol
Ideally, blood cholesterol screening should be done once or twice a year after your twentieth birthday. However, you may require more frequent tests if you have a family history of high cholesterol or if your doctor recommends it.
5. Echo Cardio Graphy (ECG)
An ECG is a standard test that allows doctors to assess your heart:
- Electrical activity
6. Cardiac Stress Tests
Stress tests help assess your heart's ability to perform when it is working at its hardest. During these tests, the person is made to walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike while hooked onto an EKG machine that monitors the heart's activities.
Other Screening Tests for Your Heart
Sometimes, doctors may recommend other tests to check the following levels for:
Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a) is an important indicator of heart disease development. This parameter determines the future risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.
Elevated homocysteine levels ring the alarm bells for atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke. Excessive homocysteine levels affect the inner lining of blood vessels. Besides the risk of stenosed arteries, patients with high homocysteine levels are at additional risk for blood clots and pulmonary embolisms.
3. Glycated hemoglobin A1c levels (A1c %)
Generally, glycosylated hemoglobin should be tested every three years. If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, you should get it tested once in three months. Irregular HbA1C and blood glucose levels can increase the risk of coronary diseases or stroke.
Heart diseases can massively impact the quality of your life. While prevention is the best option to keep yourself on the safer side, early identification also gives you enough leeway to alter the course of the disease.
So, what is the right age to undergo screening tests for your heart? According to the American Heart Association, your first vascular screening should be done when you are twenty years old, irrespective of whether you experience any symptoms or not.
Even if your results are clear, they can motivate you to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
On the other hand, screening can help detect even the slightest change, like plaque buildup in your arteries, constricting the flow of oxygenated blood to your heart.
How Smart Screening Can Help Improve Cardiac Care
Whether or not you are due for a heart health screening, the best way to ensure cardiac health is to schedule an annual appointment with your cardiologist. Nowadays, with the rapid advancement of smart devices and the increased use of Artificial Intelligence, it is becoming much easier to :
- Identify and prevent heart diseases before they cause serious health problems.
- Screen large sections of people for multiple types of pathologies.
- Reduce screening costs, especially in rural and remote areas.
REAN Foundation's healthcare digital app is especially useful in managing your health from the comfort of your home. Our app tracks your health by recording all your vital data. You can easily access this saved data to view your heart health over a long period of time.
So, when it comes to caring for your heart, never procrastinate or be careless about it. Make screening a habit from your twentieth birthday and gain your peace of mind for a lifetime!