Heart Prevention Screenings

Heart disease is a growing problem in a world where stress is common and people don’t get enough rest, good nutrition and exercise. Fortunately there are heart prevention screening tests that will indicate when there is a higher risk of developing heart disease and how to avoid that risk.

There are several aspects to prevention screening tests. Each criteria tests another aspect of your health that you may have the ability to change and therefore impact your own health and wellness.

The first screening test your doctor may perform is a cholesterol test. Testing your cholesterol involves a small blood sample that can be drawn in the doctor’s office or laboratory. To get the most accurate results the patient shouldn’t have anything to eat or drink for 8-12 hours before the test. This ensures that the test will not be influenced by the body’s hormonal (insulin) reaction to food or drink.

There are four cholesterol numbers that are important. The first is the Total Cholesterol, which should be below 200 mg/dL. The Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) Cholesterol is the bad cholesterol and it should be as low as you can get it. The goals for this number vary depending upon variables that you can discuss with your doctor. The High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) Cholesterol should be 40 mg/dL or higher for men and 50 mg/dL or higher for women. The last number is the Triglycerides and that should be less than 150 mg/dL. You cholesterol levels will give you an estimation of what your risk is for developing clots from fat lodged in your arteries. Reducing the amount of saturated and trans fat that you eat will help to reduce this risk.

Another screening test is your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure have an increased risk of stroke and heart attack because the high blood pressure places an increased workload on the heart and high blood pressure is an increased risk factor for stroke and clots. Taking your blood pressure is a simple procedure that is done using an inflatable cuff while listening using a stethescope.

Your blood pressure has two numbers. The top number is the systolic and the bottom number is the diastolic. Simply put the cuff is inflated until it cuts off the arterial blood supply over the arm or leg. Using a stethescope the practitioner can hear when the blood first begins to get through the pressure and when the blood flows through without being impeded by the cuff at all. The most important number is the bottom number, which indicates to the doctor how much pressure your cardiovascular system is operating under. The higher the pressure the higher your risk of developing heart damage.

Your weight is another criteria in prevention screening tests. You physician will determine your body mass index – or the relationship between your height and your weight. Research has found that people who carry too much weight are at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. Obesity has been linked with many different diseases and conditions. Fortunately, weight is also one of the factors that is controllable with some help.

Another important criteria is the amount of exercise and motion that you experience each day. Research has shown that people who exercise have a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. Your body requires exercise to function properly – and it’s easy to get 30 minutes of blood pumping exercise each day. Remember you aren’t training for the Olympics, just moving your blood around your body.

There are other lifestyle changes that can affect your risk for heart disease. These lifestyle changes include limiting alcohol and to stop smoking. Both of these criteria will affect your body’s ability to cope with stress, a major factor in the development of heart disease.

New guidelines have been proposed by SHAPE (Screening for Heart Attack Prevention and Education) task force that they believe will prevent 90,000 sudden cardiac deaths and save 21 billions dollars annually. The guidelines call for non-invasive screening of asymptomatic men between 45-75 and women between 55-75 to assess for coronary plaque or carotid wall thickness.

SHAPE Task Force has developed the first national guidelines for screening subclinical coronary heart disease. Heart attacks and strokes account for more disability and death than all cancers combined. These new screening guidelines are designed to find people at high risk early so that lifestyle changes and medications might decrease their risk and therefore the number of deaths suffered.

SHAPE Task Force estimates that nearly half of the people who suffer heart attacks or sudden death don’t even know they have heart disease until they suffer a cardiac event.

Heart prevention screenings are designed to evaluate risk for patients and help people to avoid heart disease or to decrease their risk of heart attack. You can find heart prevention screenings at health fairs or they can be done at your doctor’s office. Make it your goal to have one done this week. It just may save your life.

Columbia Department of Surgery: Prevention

St. Luke’s Health system: Prevention and Screening
University of Maryland Medical Center: Tips for Prevention
University of Maryland Medical Center: Maryland Heart Center
Cedars-Sinai: Give a Heart Screening to Someone You Love

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