What to expect during a heart checkup

With the hectic routine life that one leads, one’s health often takes the backseat. Routine visits to the doctor are neglected and pushed aside. It is vital that annual appointments be made to the doctor, especially cardiac checkups. The heart is what keeps one’s body pumped and moving, literally.

Before the heart is checked out, there are a few preliminary tests that are to be conducted:

  • Cholesterol
  • Blood pressure
  • BMI calculation
  • Weight
  • Blood sugar levels
  • Waist circumference

Such tests help create a baseline for future cardiac checkups. These become screening factors to help ascertain cardiac health and prevent future cardiac disease. The aim here is to use the above tests to find out if there is a chance of cardiac disease, before the actual symptoms arise. It is also important that one provides information freely to the doctor about their lifestyles, eating habits and family history.

Once the doctor makes an evaluation of your current cardiac health status and the risk factors involved, he may recommend further heart checkups:

  • Electrocardiography (EKG or ECG): This test tracks the electronic activity of the heart that is quick to catch any irregularities in the cardiac rhythm. This test however does not point out what it is that may cause an irregularity.
  • Cardiac stress test: In this test, one is asked to carry out certain activities such as running on a treadmill, pedaling an exercise bike, etc. in order to find out the heart rhythm, rate and blood pressure. Throughout the process, the ECG machine is recording the activity of the heart. This is done to see whether with all the exercise, there is adequate blood flow through the cardiac vasculature.
  • Echocardiography or Echo: This uses the ultrasound to take moving pictures of the heart.
  • Coronary CT angiography (CTA): This interesting test makes use of radioactive material that is injected intravenously. The circulating dye helps to create 3D pictures of the arteries, giving the doctor an idea of any blockages, if at all.
  • Coronary catheter angiography: This is similar to the above test, the only difference being that a catheter is used to inject the dye inside the coronary arteries.

Coronary artery disease kills thousands every year and is a major cause for heart attacks. It is important to maintain a healthy diet and get enough exercise to prevent the development of any blockages in the arteries that may put unnecessary pressure on the heart. To prevent symptoms from arising, annual heart checkups are the key.

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