According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, of which nobody is immune. It’s estimated that some 600,000 people in the U.S. die of heart disease each year and some 935,000 people suffer a heart attack each year. Yes, heart health is crucial to living a long healthy life. And there’s a variety of tests that you may need to have done as you age, or become ill, to ensure that your heart health is good, especially if there’s a history of heart disease in your family or if you fall into several other risk categories (i.e., high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.)
Here’s a look at some common healthy heart tests that are often performed:
- ECG: The electrocardiogram, or ECG, is one of the most common heart tests performed in terms of cardiology. ECG tests today are available in most medical facilities, from your local physician’s office to the mobile cath lab, and are fast, pain-free and inexpensive. Such tests consist of attaching electrodes to a patient’s arms, legs and chest to measure cardiac electrical impulses. The test takes less than 10 minutes to perform and will dictate whether or not the patient’s heart is healthy, or whether further tests are necessary.
- Catheterization: Typically, if a patient’s ECG test comes back abnormally, the next step is a heart catheterization. These tests are more invasive and typically performed in the cardiac wing of a hospital or medical center. In such a test, the patient is sedated and tubes are inserted into the heart to evaluate it. Such a procedure was formerly performed by inserting the tubes through the groin, but now it’s typically done through the arm. A catheterization takes about an hour. Small abnormalities can often be corrected via this procedure with a stent. However, if there’s too much blockage, the test is confirmation that bypass surgery is necessary.
- Stress test: Stress tests are performed to analyze the performance of the heart during exercise. Such a test is useful for identifying coronary heart disease and partial artery blockage. It’s often performed as the patient walks on a treadmill, gradually participating in more strenuous levels of exercise. This is done as the patient is hooked up to an ECG machine to monitor heart performance. Like the ECG test, this can be performed in just about any physician’s office.
- Echocardiogram: Chalk this test up as another that’s safe, non-invasive and easy on the patient, in terms of some of the other tests that are often ordered to analyze the heart. In fact, the echocardiogram is similar to an ultrasound, except it can take up to an hour. An echocardiogram tests consists of a technician placing a transducer on the patient’s test to analyze the anatomy of the heart.
- EP study: An electro physiology, or EP study, is an invasive procedure that is often performed in the cardiac wing of a hospital or medical center. It consists of inserting electrode catheters into a patient’s heart to study the heart’s electrical system. Often times, arteries and blockage are what we hear about in terms of the heart, but the electrical system is just as important. This is because that’s the system that control’s a heart’s rhythm, or beating. This test is best used to determine irregular heart beats and whether or not a corrective measure, such as a pacemaker, is necessary for the patient. Typically, patients are sedated for the procedure, which can take up to an hour to perform.
The best way to fend off heart disease is by eating right, exercising and scheduling regular physicals with your local doctor. When it comes to the heart, you can never be too careful and such tests can help sniff out problems before it becomes too serious of an issue.