Getting a routine heart check-up is essential to discovering early signs of heart disease, but did you know that the vast majority of adults are unsure of when to get them?
Heart disease is responsible for around one in four deaths in the United States, and just like you need colonoscopies to ensure your colon is healthy, you need heart check-ups to ensure your heart is healthy. After all, early detection and treatment are essential to maintaining your health.
But did you know that most American adults are unsure of when they should get a heart check-up? In fact, a recent national study found that only eight percent of women know the age at which these tests should start. Instead, most believe heart check-ups should start a full 10 years later than when doctors recommend. Let’s take a look at when and why you should get a heart check-up and what tests are involved.
Heart Check-Ups 101
Heart check-ups can uncover potential heart disease signs and risk factors early, giving you the best possible long-term prognosis and allowing you to enjoy a longer, healthier life.
During your heart check-up, your doctor will perform non-invasive screening tests to gain better insight into your heart’s health and assess your risk factors, including high blood cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high levels of c-reactive protein (CRP). They will also note your weight, alcohol usage, smoking habits, and family medical history. Let your doctor know if you have any symptoms of heart disease like chest pain, a slow or racing heartbeat, swelling in your feet or abdomen, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fatigue.
When Should You Schedule Heart Check-Ups?
The American Heart Association recommends:
- Checking your weight and BMI each year at your regular check-up
- Beginning to get blood pressure tests at the age of 20 and having at least one blood pressure test every two years
- Checking your blood glucose levels once every three years, starting between the ages of 40 and 45
- Getting a blood cholesterol test once every four to six years, starting when you’re 20
If you’re at a higher risk of heart disease, your doctor may recommend starting heart health screenings earlier or getting them more often.
What Tests Are Involved In Heart Check-Ups?
Regardless of your risk for heart disease, you should routinely get heart health screening tests. Some factors to test for include:
- Cholesterol: Having high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, and high levels of triglycerides put you at greater risk of developing heart disease. To determine the amount of these lipids in your blood, your doctor will perform a Lipid Panel Screening.
- C-reactive protein: Having high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) can indicate inflammation or infection and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Your doctor might perform a high-sensitivity CRP test to measure the amount of CRP in your blood.
- Blood pressure: High blood pressure is one of the major risks for heart disease, but if you have high blood pressure, you might not have any symptoms. Your doctor can measure your blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer.
- Blood glucose levels: High levels of sugar in your blood can indicate diabetes, one of the leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Your doctor may monitor your blood glucose levels after fasting and at random to make a more accurate diagnosis.
If your doctor suspects you have heart disease after performing any of the above tests, they might also measure your abdominal aorta’s size with an ultrasound or order additional tests, such as ECGs, nuclear stress tests, and coronary CT (or catheter angiograms) to further assess your heart.
How to Monitor Your Heart Health At Home
To monitor your heart health from home between check-ups, you can weigh yourself to keep track of your weight and BMI, check your blood pressure with a blood pressure monitor, use a glucose monitor to monitor blood sugar levels, or wear a fitness tracker or smartwatch to track your heart rate and rhythm. You should also note any new symptoms of heart disease and pay attention to your diet, physical activities, and other lifestyle factors that can impact your heart’s health.
How Can You Keep Your Heart Healthy?
Practicing a healthy lifestyle is the best way to lower your risk for heart disease. This includes managing your weight, abstaining from smoking tobacco, getting enough sleep, following a balanced diet, and limiting your consumption of fatty and sugary foods and drinks. You’ll also want to incorporate 150 minutes or more of moderate-to-intensive physical activity each week and get routine heart health screenings.
Scheduling routine heart check-ups is an essential part of staying on top of your heart’s health. At Tri-City Cardiology, our heart specialists can perform check-ups to detect early signs of heart disease. For over 40 years, Tri-City has provided patients with top-notch care. Schedule an appointment today!