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Heart disease is often a “silent” disease without symptoms or warnings until an event, such as a heart attack or stroke.
You can be proactive, however, with some potentially lifesaving tests to help detect heart disease. If you’re in your 40s, have a family history of heart disease or have risk factors (e.g., diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a past or current smoking habit), you may want to discuss these screenings with your doctor.
These painless tests can take anywhere from five minutes to about an hour and can help detect blockages, poor blood flow or other irregularities — and put you on a path to better health.
A 12-lead EKG measures the electrical activity of your heart. Typically, this test is given to people who are exhibiting symptoms of chest pain.
During the brief test, electrodes are placed on your chest. The test helps measure your heart rhythm and can indicate irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, if someone has an enlarged heart, or if there are any blockages present in the heart.
Using ultrasound, an echocardiogram provides a picture of your heart in action and shows your heart as it beats, the valves, and the size of your heart. Typically, doctors prescribe this screening as part of an advanced follow-up for patients who are exhibiting symptoms of heart disease.
An echocardiogram will help your doctor see if there is any part of your heart that is not beating properly and could indicate if you’ve had a previous heart attack or if there is an issue with decreased blood flow.
Cardiac stress test
You’ll want to wear comfortable clothing and shoes for this one. Twelve leads will be placed on your chest again, but you’ll be exercising on a treadmill instead of laying still.
A stress test does what its name implies: it measures your heart’s activity while it’s under stress. Physicians use this test to try to replicate cardiac symptoms you may have experienced before.
Additional heart screenings
You may also consider two other screenings that do not require a physician referral, but can give you a better picture of your heart health. Both of the following screenings include a half-hour consultation with a cardiac nurse and a blood pressure reading, glucose measure and lipid profile.
To help determine if you are a good candidate for either of these tests, take our online HeartAware assessment.
A heart scan is the safest and most accurate way to detect early calcium or plaque build-up in the coronary arteries. This is a simple, painless test and can be lifesaving. It is ideal for patients over the age of 40 who may have a higher risk of heart disease. The screening takes about 15 minutes and is done through a low-dose CT scan.
Though you do not need a physician referral for this test, it is important to follow-up with your physician to review your test results.
This screening is available at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Edward-Elmhurst Health Center & Immediate Care in Lombard, and the Edward Outpatient Center in Plainfield.
Peripheral vascular screening
A peripheral vascular disease (PVD) screening can help protect you from life-threatening events such as stroke, blood clots, heart attacks or aneurysms.
The screening looks for problems in arteries outside the heart and brain. Screening is important if you are experiencing particular symptoms, including calf pain while walking. The test will help show if there is any blockage in lower vessels in the legs and check for blood flow in the arteries.
This screening is available at Edward Hospital in Naperville and Edward-Elmhurst Health Center & Immediate Care in Lombard.
This blog was reviewed by David Zanghi, system director of cardiodiagnostics and wound care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
We’re committed to proactive cardiac care in our community. Learn more about our heart screenings and prevention.
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