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Monitor Heart Health: Common Heart Health Screenings You Should Know About

Written by Reshma Pathare on Tue, 01 August 2023 — Fact checked by Dr. Sintayehu Abebe

Key Highlights

  • Heart health screenings are important as they help you understand if you have any heart health issues.
  • Blood glucose test, lipid profile, blood pressure test, and checking of BMI are a few routine tests that your doctor will order as a part of heart health screenings.
  • If the doctor feels that you might develop heart disease, some specific tests like electrocardiogram and echo can be ordered.
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The importance of health screenings is paramount. Getting yourself screened for heart problems is one of the most important steps that you can take to ensure that you have good heart health.

Why is heart health screening important?

Heart disease is responsible for around one-third of deaths globally. The most probable causes of cardiovascular diseases are conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The contributing factors for the above-mentioned diseases are unhealthy lifestyle practices like physical inactivity, smoking, and lack of a healthy and balanced diet.

With the help of heart health screenings, one can determine whether you are at an increased risk of heart disease or not. If the tests reveal that you are at an increased risk, your doctor can manage your condition with timely interventions and can prevent further progression of heart disease.

What are the recommended screening tests by age?

As a part of a routine heart health check-up, your doctor may ask you a couple of questions such as:

  • Details about your diet
  • Number of hours you engage in exercise or any physical activity
  • Whether you have the habit of smoking or alcohol consumption
  • Whether you have a family history of heart diseases
  • Whether you have experienced any changes in your health

These questions help the doctor in identifying whether you are at an increased risk of developing cardiac problems or not.

Here is a list of routine heart health screening tests recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) that your doctor would order:

  • Bodyweight and Body Mass Index (BMI): These need to be checked annually for all individuals irrespective of their age.
  • Blood glucose: If you are in between 40 and 45 years of age, you should start getting your blood glucose levels checked at least once every 3 years.
  • Blood pressure: Individuals of age 20 years and above should get their blood pressure tested at least once in two years.
  • Blood cholesterol test or lipid profile: Those who are 20 years old or above should get their lipid profile done once every 4 to 6 years.

heart health screening tests

Your doctor may ask you to undergo more frequent or early screening test if you have:

  • A pre-existing heart condition like atrial fibrillation
  • Excess body weight and are overweight or obese
  • High blood glucose level, cholesterol, or blood pressure
  • A family history of heart disease
  • Diabetes or are prediabetic
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy

If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider so that the necessary specific diagnostic tests can be ordered.

Additional heart tests if I am at a high risk of developing heart disease

If your doctors determine that you have a moderate or very high risk of developing a cardiac disease, they may ask you to run some more tests like:

High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein test

It is a blood test to assess the levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein or hs-CRP in our body. This test helps in identifying the risk of heart disease even before the symptoms begin to show. Hence, if your hs-CRP levels are high, you are at a higher risk of developing heart attack, heart disease, or stroke.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

In this test, the electrical activity of your heart is recorded to analyze the rate and rhythm of your heart while you rest.

Exercise treadmill test or exercise cardiac stress test

Similar to electrocardiography, tiny electrodes attached to the chest carry the heart’s response to the ECG machine. The difference lies in the fact that the individual is asked to either walk or run on a treadmill while the healthcare professional analyses the response of the heart when the individual is undergoing physical stress.

Echocardiography

Echocardiography, popularly called echo, is a test that involves the capturing of live images of your heart through an ultrasound machine. This test helps the healthcare professional to investigate heart functions like pumping action.

Can heart health be checked at home?

If you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, here are a few things that you can watch for at home:

  • Your bodyweight with the help of a weighing scale.
  • Your BMI can be calculated manually (kg/m2 which means dividing your body weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters) or through a BMI calculator available online.
  • Your blood glucose levels through a glucose monitor.
  • Your blood pressure using a blood pressure monitor.
  • Your heart rate and rhythm with the help of fitness bands, smartwatches, or even a blood pressure monitor.

Check blood pressure at home

Apart from these, your doctor may ask you to note down the duration of physical activity like a fitness regime. The details of your diet may also be needed in assessing your condition. You should keep a track of any unusual symptoms that you have experienced in the time between your routine checkups.

How to reduce heart age?

Let us first understand what the term ‘heart age’ means. Heart age helps us understand how prone we are to a heart attack or stroke. It is calculated on the basis of various risk factors like smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol, and exercise. In short, a young heart means you are at a low risk of having heart disease.

A healthy lifestyle is the most important way of maintaining a young and healthy heart. Here are a few tips to lower your risk of heart disease:

  • Avoid smoking tobacco and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Engage yourself in moderate-intensity exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes every week.
  • Include all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains so that you have a balanced diet.
  • Reduce the consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and artificially sweetened or colored foods and beverages.
  • Try to maintain your weight to a healthy limit.
  • If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, prediabetes, diabetes, or high cholesterol, make sure to follow your doctor’s treatment plan.
  • Last but not the least, get yourself screened routinely to maintain optimum heart health. These screenings will help your doctor determine if you have any potential problem that needs to be addressed and prepare a suitable treatment plan for you.

Conclusion

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the world. Heart health screenings help us know if we have heart disease or are susceptible to developing one in the future. These screenings also help our doctors curb the further progress of the disease through early intervention.

The good news is that you can also monitor your heart health in the comfort of your home by using simple gadgets like a weighing scale and glucose monitor. After reading this article, you must have already understood how to reduce heart age. A couple of additions to your daily routine like half an hour of exercise and incorporating at least some vegetables or fruits from the list of heart check foods can work wonders in maintaining your heart health.

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Reshma Pathare

Reshma Kulkarni-Pathare has been a self-employed media professional since 1999. Starting off as a Freelance Journalist for Times of India Thane Plus, Reshma went onto write for more than 45 national and international publications including Times of India, New Woman, Femina, Indian Express, The Hindu, BBC Good Homes and many more. While her forte has been lifestyle writing, she is equally proficient in writing health articles. Her health articles have been published in Health International (Dubai), New Woman, Femina, and Mother & Baby.

Apart from being a journalist, Reshma also works as a copy-editor for self-publishing houses and academic journals.

She is an award-winning bi-lingual translator with more than 12 books published in her name.

She has been a Visiting Faculty Member for post-graduate department of mass media at MET College (Mumbai) and Welingkar WeSchool (Mumbai).

She has worked as a Consumer Marketing Insights Researcher for global organizations like CEB Iconoculture (USA) and Gartner (USA).

Consolidating her multifarious skills in the media, in 2021, Reshma launched her own boutique media agency called Talking Turkey Communications, which specializes in content writing, editing, and translation.

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Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Aug, 01 2023

Written By

Reshma Pathare

Fact checked By

Dr. Sintayehu Abebe