Having a healthy heart is generally an indication of your overall health, so getting regular heart check-ups is an important part of taking care of this vital organ.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi Heart & Vascular Institute staff physician, Dr. Gurjyot Bajwa, recommends that adults should start getting cardiac examinations every 2 – 4 years from the age of 30 years. “Take a few small steps to keep your heart healthy and this organ generously gives back by increasing your level of well-being and life–expectancy.”
What are the different kinds of cardiac evaluation tests?
There are two types of cardiac evaluation tests – non-invasive and invasive. Non-invasive tests can include ECG or EKG (electrocardiogram), chest x-ray, echocardiogram and a cardiac stress test. In most cases, non-invasive tests and can be combined with your routine health check-ups.
Invasive tests can be a simple blood test, or a cardiac catheterization where a tiny tube is inserted via a blood vessel in your arm, groin or neck to inject a dye. This shows up any anomalies in your heart’s blood vessels on a special x-ray called an angiogram.
Here are a few cardiac evaluation tests your doctor may recommend:
- Blood pressure and heart rate
Blood pressure and heart rate are two of the most important parameters that help gauge your medical condition. Checking your blood pressure can help detect signs of clogging of your arteries and help assess your risk of stroke. Your heart rate can indicate any signs of stress, genetic abnormalities in your heart, or damage to heart tissues.
- Stress test
A cardiac stress test measures your resting and active heart rate and the time it takes for your body to get back to normal. It can show changes in the heart rhythm when the heart is working harder with exercise.
- Blood glucose
Blood glucose levels are measured with a simple blood test. If your blood glucose level is higher than normal, your doctor may advise you to take further examinations to accurately determine if you have diabetes.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
An electrocardiogram captures any irregularities in your heart’s rhythm and structure. It tests the electrical waves from your heart and is typically used to measure the speed at which a ‘wave’ travels and/or the amount of electrical activity passing through the heart muscles.
- Holter monitoring
A Holter Monitor is a portable device that is used to record your ECG over 24 - 48 hours. This is recommended when your doctor needs to get a better understanding or detect any abnormalities in your heart rhythm throughout the designated time period.
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound that allows a doctor to view your heart’s shape, structure and function. The scans generated from this test can help determine serious heart diseases at an early stage.
How to prepare for a cardiac evaluation
- Your doctor will advise you how you need to prepare for your test. For example, some tests require you to refrain from eating or drinking for a period of time prior to your appointment.
- If you’re feeling anxious about your test, ask your doctor if a family member or friend can go along with you.
- Make a list of all the questions you would like your doctor to answer regarding the screening to ensure you don’t forget any important details.
Attending regular heart check-ups are vital in screening and detecting any conditions at an early stage, and can help give a wider understanding of ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease.