Risk Factors Requiring Early Heart Screening
You may know that heart disease is the leading killer of American adults. Fortunately, better awareness and screening guidance has allowed us to diagnose heart disease sooner and has saved lives as a result. An average-risk patient begins regular, basic heart-risk screenings with their primary care physician around the age of 20. This will include blood pressure and cholesterol testing. Those suffering from excess weight or obesity may require additional testing. Typically, screening for type two diabetes begins in the mid 30s or earlier in those patients that have strong risk factors including obesity. While these screenings are not perfect, they can help us find the markers of heart disease much sooner.
Over the past several decades however the US adult population has become decidedly less healthy, and this has put an incredible strain on our hearts. With rising rates of excess weight and obesity, there have been similar increases in high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea, all of which can worsen cardiovascular disease.
What about commercial screening tests promising earlier detection?
In our quest to find disease early, there are new tests offering almost incredible claims of finding cardiovascular disease its earliest stages. While these tests, in and of themselves, may have some predictive value, it is how they are interpreted that really matters. Indeed, many are never reviewed by a qualified physician. In fact, the US Preventative Services Task Force has said that these cardiovascular screening tests are typically unnecessary for healthy people. However, screening for an abdominal aortic aneurysm may be useful especially in older males who smoke. Speak to your physician.
Screening with your Cardiologist
When you have an experienced cardiologist from a well-established cardiology practice such as The Heart House in your corner, you will have the knowledge and context in which you can make the best decisions for your heart health. Oftentimes, the screenings provided by the heart house are fully covered by Medicare. For younger patients, we work to select only appropriate tests to minimize the risk of unnecessary concern and the possibility of false positive results that could require more invasive testing.
When to speak to your doctor
Importantly, if you experience any of the signs or symptoms of cardiovascular disease like chest pain, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting, chronic fatigue or swelling in your feet or abdominal area, you should speak to your cardiologist right away. If you or a close family member have a history of cardiovascular disease, you should step up your screening protocol as directed by your cardiologist.
Of course, prevention is the key to minimizing the effects of heart disease, even if we have multiple risk factors. Maintaining a healthy diet and proper exercise, starting from early in life, can minimize the risk of heart disease and improve outcomes if heart disease ever affected you.
If you have any of the risk factors associated with heart disease or if you have a family history of cardiovascular problems that require earlier screening, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our cardiologists that will be able to screen you and create an appropriate follow up schedule.