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Heart Health Screening: What You Need to Know

We are often too busy with our daily activities to think about how our bodies work, what processes take place inside, and how our bodies handle physical and emotional stress. The work of internal organs is autonomous, so minor health issues often go unnoticed, especially at a young age.

The most important organ in the body is the heart, which can be compared to a pump. It has two atria that receive blood and two ventricles that directly pump blood throughout the body. The heart circulates blood through a network of blood vessels, including arteries, veins, and capillaries.

Heart and vascular diseases are dangerous conditions with a high mortality rate. Previously, these diseases were mainly detected in the elderly, but in recent decades, cardiologists are seeing more young patients. Even at the age of 25-30, there is a risk of heart attack. However, it is quite possible to reduce this risk by knowing your risk factors for heart disease and regularly undergoing screenings at a clinic.

Heart Health Screening

The main challenge with cardiovascular disease is the absence of symptoms like discomfort, even with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Very often, the first and only symptom of heart disease is a cardiovascular event, such as a stroke or heart attack. Therefore, waiting to see a doctor until you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or weakness is not a good strategy.

Diagnostic tests to assess heart health are simple and painless. Most of them don’t take much time, but they can help you maintain your health and stay active.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

The heart requires many muscle bundles to work together. Therefore, there are thousands of nerve fibers in the heart, which, like wires, carry commands to the muscles (weak electric current). The sum of these signals is recorded by the ECG. That is, the cardiogram is a reflection of the heart’s electrical activity.

This is a painless procedure performed using sensors attached to the chest and limbs. The results are recorded on a special tape or stored in a computer.

Cardiac Ultrasound (Echocardiogram or Echo)

Echocardiography is a diagnostic technique used to detect various heart pathologies or monitor the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The procedure is quick and does not require special preparation.

The sensor of the ultrasound machine, applied to the patient’s chest (in the intercostal spaces – ultrasound does not penetrate through the bone), generates ultrasound waves and analyzes the speed of their reflection from the heart tissue.

Using the Doppler effect, you can assess the velocity characteristics of the blood flow in the heart. The computer generates a picture that the doctor can study.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a numerical measure of the heart’s performance, which shows how much pressure the blood flowing in the lumen of a vessel exerts on its wall.

A persistent rise in blood pressure above 140/90 is one of the most dangerous factors in the development of heart disease. According to medical studies involving over 400,000 people, an increase in just one indicator—diastolic pressure—by 7.5 mmHg increases the risk of stroke in the next 10 years by 46%.

Laboratory Tests

  • The Lipid Panel

This is a blood test that measures total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), and triglycerides. Your doctor uses this information to evaluate your blood vessel function and assess your risk of developing heart disease.

  • Glucose Test

A study that is used to diagnose and monitor diabetes mellitus (types I and II) and other diseases associated with impaired carbohydrate metabolism. Diabetes adversely affects vascular health and is a major trigger for heart disease.

Discussing Your History and Lifestyle

Your lifestyle is a crucial part of assessing your risk for heart disease, so your doctor needs to know some facts about your habits.

  • Your diet
  • Levels of physical activity
  • How often you smoke and consume alcohol
  • Whether you maintain a healthy weight
  • Family medical history

Heart Disease Risk Assessment

Your doctor uses the gathered information to assess your risk of having a heart attack or stroke within the next five years.

People at high risk for a heart attack or stroke in the next five years may need to take medications and make lifestyle changes to lower their risk. Your doctor may refer you to another specialist for further evaluation.

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