Simple Tests that Can Help Diagnose Developing Heart Disease
Posted Dec 01 2009 10:00pm
There is plenty of technology at hand to test your cardiovascular system. You may have seen fancy, expensive computerized x-rays that take pictures of the heart with excellent detailing of the blood vessels and the heart muscle itself. However, did you know there are a few simple tests which can help your doctor diagnose potential heart disease and risk factors in you? Coupled with your family history and lifestyle, these simple tests can give you as accurate a picture of your current heart health as all the fancy technological diagnostic machines.
Your Family History
You may live life cleanly with an excellent diet and exercise, but if your family has a history of heart disease, you should know your risk increases too. The overall health of your immediate family is a good indicator of what you can expect of yourself. If mom, dad, siblings or even grandparents experience heart disease, your risk doubles. Even if you are feeling good and show no signs of illness, it is important to get, at the very least, a yearly physical.
Blood Tests and Blood Pressure
Blood definitely can tell the tale of heart disease. If you show signs of diabetes with routine blood sugar testing, you automatically double your chances of heart disease. Routine blood pressure checks are important too as your historical readings may point to future heart problems if left unchecked.
You will want to have a fasting lipid blood test to check your levels of the three different fats in the blood. Your LDL (low density lipoprotein) and your HDL (high density lipoprotein) comprise your cholesterol readings. Triglycerides are also an important indicator of heart disease.
LDL is also touted as the “bad cholesterol” because high levels mean this blood fat can accumulate along the blood vessel walls, causing high blood pressure and eventual blockage. HDL is the “good cholesterol” because it sweeps excess LDL out of the blood to the liver for eventual disposal. Triglycerides can provide energy to your body but when your levels are too high, this blood fat can thicken the blood vessel walls, again raising blood pressure and adding strain to your heart.
Determining your blood fat levels of LDL, HDL and triglycerides can also pinpoint metabolic syndrome, a condition in which your body cannot handle insulin normally. This health condition increases your chances of a heart attack and therefore cardiovascular disease. Doctors also look at overall indicators grouped together like abdominal fat, low HDL, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and a spike in blood sugar readings as a sign of potential heart problems.
Other Promising Tests
A simple ankle brachial test can help pinpoint potential heart risk, even when other conventional testing is not definitive. The doctor basically takes your blood pressure on your arm as well as your ankle and then compares the two readings. If your blood pressure is significantly lower on your ankle, it could be a sign that somewhere your arteries may be clogged.
A C-reactive protein (CRP) test can be done with other routine blood work and it can help pinpoint health risks of the cardiovascular system. C-reactive protein is produced by your liver when inflammation is present in your body. This inflammation may be a contributor of heart disease just as much as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Remember that a balanced diet and exercise can help you maintain good health but genetics should be credited as well. While you may be healthy and rarely become ill, it pays to get some routine blood work and testing each year during your physical. You may have hidden risk factors for heart disease that only present themselves through simple, routine testing. Invest in your health – it will pay off for years to come.