The importance of a regular heart check-up

Getting a heart check up often is extremely important. It is beneficial to detect arteries that are clogged as they could later lead to heart attacks. Studies suggest that women who are under birth control pillls are at a higher risk of developing a heart attack. Hence, women should go for a heart check up more often.

Earlier doctors used to offer a stress test, but nowdays cardiologists provide blood tests and advanced imaging which give a much accurate picture of the risks of heart attack.  Better detection of heart diseases are of utmost important to prevent possibilities of developing one in the future.

Tests performed during a cardiac checkup :-

  1. Cardiac calcium scoring- A CT scanner is used to check traces of atherosclerotic plaque (made up of scar tissues, cholesterol and calcium) inside your heart’s arteries. Electrodes are attached to your chest and an EKG machine monitors your heartbeat. You are supposed to hold your breath for atleast 10 seconds during the test.
  2. Carotid intimal medial thickness test- An ultrasound test of your neck is taken to check the carotid arteries. These arteries are responsible in supplying blood to your brain and head.
  3. High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein test- A blood test usually measures the CRP. This is a protein found in your blood which indicates inflammation throughout the body. People with high levels of CRP in their blood are more prone to suffering from a stroke or a heart attack. According to research belly fat can contribute to the formation of CRP.
  4. Lipoprotein test or advanced lipid profile- Unlike cholestrol blood tests which measure the total amount of cholestrol, triglycerides, LDL and HDL, advanced lipid profile measure the size of the particles thoroughly. Some particles tend to be fluffy and big, therefore, they tend to travel through the body by bouncing off the artery walls while the particles which tend to be dense and small penetrate the lining of the arteries and form plaque. The presence of small particles doubles your risk of a heart attack or a chronic heart disorder.
  5. A1C blood glucose test- This test indicates the average level of blood sugar found in your body. Unlike other glucose tests, this test doesn’t require any fasting or drinking a beverage rich in sugar content.

Genetic tests- A blood test is performed and the sample is sent to the lab for mutations of APOE genes or KIF6. If further risks of heart diseases are diagnosed, changes in diet and a drug to lower cholestrol levels are prescribed.

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I’m 30. What are tests I should look out for in a health check up package?

Many individuals shy away from visits to the doctor, often playing to their own disadvantage. Once a person’s roaring twenties are behind him, and he steps in to his thirties, it is time to take health seriously. Even if one doesn’t pay regular visits to the doctor, it is important that he at least gets regular health checkups done. With health checkups or physical exams done frequently, any health problems can be caught on time before they turn into serious health issues.

Health checkups aren’t just required if you have certain symptoms. They should be done routinely. Now coming to the kind of health exam you need to go for on a regular basis. This depends on age, family history, and health as well as lifestyle choices.

  • Blood pressure tests: Probably one of the simplest and quickest health exams available. It would be ideal if it is done annually so that a baseline can be created for better monitoring. As people become older, they risk suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure that only makes them susceptible to cardiac disease, heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, etc.
  • Cholesterol level tests: Food consumption habits nowadays lead to high accumulation of fat in the body. High cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease and heart attacks. This fat level needs to be monitored through regular cholesterol tests and also with a proper, balanced diet and lifestyle habits.
  • Prostrate check: This is one of the most important tests for men, and one that can help to detect early signs of prostrate cancer, which is one of the most commonly occurring forms of cancer in men. Even though such health exams are usually done slightly later in a man’s life, it is better to start detection tests early.
  • Eye checkup: The vision and health of your eyes need to be evaluated with periodic health checkups. Glaucoma, cataracts are some common disorders that have started affecting the eyes of men and women in their thirties itself.
  • Dental checkup: Regular inspection of teeth and oral cavity can prevent tooth decay and other dental problems that can affect the quality of one’s life later.
  • Mammograms: A vital test for early detection of breast cancer in women. It is especially important if cancer runs in your family.

Going for regular health check up should not be shied away from; it is only a matter of investment of a couple of hours towards the future of one’s health. Speak to a doctor about all the tests one should go for when they reach 30 years.

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.

I’m 50 and diabetic. How often should I go for a heart check-up?

Diabetes and heart problem are two health conditions that are related to each other. A person with diabetes is very likely to develop heart disease at some point in his life. Individuals who are 50 years and older and suffer from diabetes should be more careful, as they are at a higher risk of developing a heart problem.

It thus becomes essential that a person with diabetes should make sure to get a heart check-up done too. For an individual who is over 50, it is recommended that he gets his blood pressure checked once a year and cholesterol level checked once in 5 years.

But for an individual who has diabetes, he should go for a BP and cholesterol check-up more often, so as to prevent or detect heart disease. Similarly, a heart check-up should be opted for more often too, that is at least once a year or more.

When considering heart checkup packages be sure that it includes the following heart check-up tests-

  1. Electrocardiogram (ECG) – The test is done to evaluate the heart’s electrical activity. The electric impulse or wave helps the heart pump blood to all the parts of the body. The test helps a doctor determine the time an electrical wave takes to pass through the heart. Thus, he can effectively evaluate if the wave is slow or fast.
  2. Echocardiogram- Quite safe and even painless, this test uses sound waves to determine the heart’s activity. The test uses a device, which releases sound waves that create a picture of the heart and its chambers. An ECG determines the thickness of the heart muscle and if it is pumping blood properly.
  3. Stress test- Also known as the treadmill test or the exercise test, it is done to determine the kind of capacity that the heart has. In case of hard physical activity the body requires more oxygen to function, thus the heart has to pump out more blood. It effectively determines if less blood is reaching the heart through the arteries.

The above are non-invasive heart checkup tests, a few common invasive ones are-

  1. Thallium stress test- It is a nuclear scan, which helps the doctor detect the amount of blood going into the heart.
  2. Coronary angiogram- It uses a dye that is injected into a patient’s blood stream to check for any blockage.

A heart check-up is necessary for a person who is 50 and has diabetes to prevent further complications in the future.