5 Heart Tests You Should Know
By Kate Gardner
Every year 610,000 people die from heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women. Additionally, 735,000 people suffer from heart attacks each year. With such staggering numbers, it's almost a given that each of us will either develop heart disease or have a loved one who develops heart disease. It's important that, when that time comes, you understand what tests your doctors will order and what they are for.
Types of Heart Disease
Heart disease is more than heart attacks. MayoClinic.com tells us that heart disease includes a number of different issues that affect your heart. Heart disease is:
- Atherosclerosis - Narrowing of the arteries
- Arrhythmias - Irregular heart beat
- Cardiomyopathy - Weakness of the heart muscle
- Heart valves - Damage to one of the heart's four valves
- Endocarditis - Infection of the lining of the heart
Doctors have a variety of tests to choose from when they are diagnosing heart disease. Which tests are chosen depends on your symptoms and what they think is wrong with you. The following list from UT Southwestern Medical Center walks us through some common heart tests.
Electrocardiogram - Also known as an EKG, this test is non-invasive. Wires are attached to your chest with sticky pads in order to measure your heart's electrical activity. An EKG can detect arrhythmias and signs of a previous heart attack.
Echocardiogram - This test, also non-invasive, is an ultrasound of the heart. It can show structural problems with the heart including the size of different parts of your heart, how well your valves are working, and if there is fluid around the heart.
Treadmill stress test - For this test, you are connected to an EKG machine and then asked to walk on an inclined treadmill. The incline and speed of the treadmill increase in order to stress your heart. The test typically ends when you are no longer able to keep going. The stress test can show decreased blood flow to the heart, how your heart acts during exercise, and your fitness level.
Chemical stress test - If you can't undergo a treadmill stress test, your doctor may want to administer medications via IV that will stress your heart in much the same way exercise does. This test can indicate areas of decreased blood flow to the heart.
Monitors - Monitors are attached to you with sticky pads much like the EKG. You can wear a monitor for 24 hours up to 30 days, depending on what your symptoms are. Monitors are good for investigating arrhythmias and palpitations.
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