Keeping a healthy heart and preventing coronary artery disease or cardiovascular disease requires managing the risk factors that cause the disorder. Risk factors for heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood glucose, high blood pressure, family history of heart disease, among others. To know what factor can affect the heart in a person, screening tests can be done during routine visits to the doctor.
Screening for cardiovascular disease can begin as early as the age of 20, and the frequency of follow-ups depend on the level of risk involved. Screening tests for heart include:
Blood pressure is a silent risk factor that may go undetected if not measured, because high blood pressure usually does not show any symptoms. A blood pressure of 120/80 mm Hg or below can be screened once in two years for people over 20 years of age. More frequent monitoring is required if the blood pressure is higher than that. Medication may be prescribed to keep blood pressure under control, along with lifestyle changes.
Lipoprotein profile is a blood test that measures total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. The normal levels of these lipoproteins in the body is as follows:
Total cholesterol – Less than 200 mg/dL
LDL – Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL – 40 mg/dL or higher
Triglycerides – Less than 150 mg/dL
Higher levels of the above indicate an increased risk towards stroke or heart disease. Both medications and healthy lifestyle can bring cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control.
Being overweight or obese puts a person at risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. The doctor assesses a person’s risk factor by calculating body mass index (BMI) to determine the body composition. Waist circumference is another indicator of body fat and the likelihood of developing chronic ailments like cardiovascular disease.
High blood glucose raises the risk of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. If left unchecked, this can cause stroke and heart disease. A person with high blood glucose levels is indicative of diabetes, a risk factor for heart disease, arterial disease and kidney failure.
A computed tomography (CT) scan is a painless procedure that looks for calcium deposits in the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries). Calcium in arteries is associated with coronary artery disease and atheroma.
ECG measures the heartbeat at rest and is useful in identifying irregularities in the electric pulse of the heart (arrhythmia).
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“Heart-Health Screenings,” Heart.org, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Heart-Health-Screenings_UCM_428687_Article.jsp
“Who is a Bupa Coronary Health check for?” Bupa.co.uk, http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-assessments/supplementary-health-checks/coronary-health
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