Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Knowing this fact, it’s only natural to think that widespread awareness of this disease would be common. And that’s true. There’s a lot of awareness, but sadly, the death rate due to heart diseases increases annually.

There are many ways through which you can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease which is also known as coronary artery disease (CAD). Managing health behaviors. and certain risk factors such as diet, physical activity, blood pressure, smoking, and body mass index has a huge impact on the way your heart works.

Your healthcare provider may suggest heart screenings during your regular visits. It might sound scary but it’s really not. What’s scarier is having an undiagnosed heart condition that becomes fatal, causing an untimely death.

If your heart tests reveal that your results are less than ideal, it doesn’t mean you’re destined to have a heart disease. As long as you step up and implement positive health changes to your life you’re good to go.

Your doctor might suggest frequent screenings if you have been diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases such as atrial fibrillation or heart failure, or if you have a history of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, your healthcare provider may want to test you for heart diseases just to stay on the safe side.

Key Screening Tests For Monitoring Heart Health

Blood Pressure

One of the key metrics to monitor heart health includes blood pressure. Identifying whether you have a high blood pressure is difficult as high blood pressure usually has no obvious symptoms. Also, it can’t be diagnosed unless a couple of blood readings are taken, making it one of the most difficult of screenings. Having a high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke and heart disease. If you find that your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, it is important to get it checked every couple of years, starting from the age of 20. Your doctor might want to monitor your blood pressure more regularly if it is higher. But as always there’s no need to fear especially when positive lifestyle changes and medications are adhered to. Here’s a list of basic lifestyle changes you need to make once diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension.

  • Regular exercise
  • Weight control
  • Less alcohol assumption
  • Healthy diet
  • Monitoring blood pressure regularly

Cholesterol (Fasting Lipoprotein Profile)

Starting at the age of 20, your healthcare provider may suggest taking a fasting lipoprotein every four to six years. It sounds complicated but it’s really not. It’s a blood test that measures total cholesterol, HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol). If you’re at an increased risk for heart disease or stroke, your healthcare provider may suggest more frequent tests. After turning 40, your healthcare provider may use an equation to calculate the risk of you developing cardiovascular disease or stroke for the next 10 years. Usually cholesterol can also be controlled through medication and lifestyle changes.

Body Weight

During your routine visit, your doctor may want to use your body weight to calculate your body mass index (BMI). These results will indicate whether or not you’re at a healthy body weight and composition. Obesity will put you at risk for health issues such as heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and more.

Blood Glucose

Having a high blood glucose level or “blood sugar levels” makes you more likely to develop insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Untreated diabetes can result in many medical issues including stroke and heart disease. Your healthcare provider may suggest a blood glucose test if you’re overweight and if you have another cardiovascular risk factor.

Smoking, Physical Activity and Diet

Smoking, physical activity and diet, all play a huge role in developing cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it may be helpful to discuss these particular topics with your healthcare provider to obtain some beneficial suggestions. If you are trying to quit smoking or drinking, support groups may also be helpful.

Recommended Screening Table

Recommended Screenings When?
Blood pressure Each healthcare visit or at least once a year if blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg
Cholesterol Every 4 to 6 years for normal risk adults and more often if you have an elevated heart disease risk
Weight / body mass index During regular healthcare visit
Waist circumference As needed to help evaluate heart disease if your BMI is greater than 25 kg/m
Smoking, diet and physical activity Every regular healthcare visit
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