Mind & Body
Prevention & Early Detection is Key
1/31/2018 9:33:42 PM

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every four deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease. Most of those can be attributed to coronary heart disease. Also known as coronary artery disease, or CAD, it’s caused by a buildup of cholesterol and other substances in the arteries that can eventually block blood flow. 

Unfortunately, many people don’t even know they have CAD until after they suffer a heart attack. But it is possible for CAD to be detected in an earlier stage. That’s crucial because early detection enables CAD patients to make lifestyle changes and start treatments that can control the disease and reduce their risk for complications.

The key for early detection is to undergo regular screening tests — usually at your primary care doctor’s office — that detect CAD risk factors. 

"There are multiple risk factors for CAD,” says Muhammad Atif Jadoon, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Lake Area Physicians. "That’s why it is important to have annual wellness exams even if you are not having any problems.”

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends these heart-health screenings:
  • Blood pressure. Your doctor should check your blood pressure at every regular visit or at least once every other year if your blood pressure is below 120/80.
  • Cholesterol. Jadoon says it’s reasonable to have your cholesterol checked once a year, though the AHA says every four to six years is okay if you aren’t at high risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Weight/body mass index. This should be checked at your regular health care visits.
  • Waist circumference. Your waist circumference should be checked as needed (your doctor can make the call) if your BMI is at least 25.
  • Blood glucose test. At least once every three years.
  • People who are at increased risk of developing CAD may be monitored more closely by their doctors. Those at higher risk include smokers and anyone with family members who’ve had the disease. Having high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol can also increase your risk.
Many of those factors are controllable, however. As Jadoon says: "The most important thing to do is minimize those risk factors. No smoking, get regular exercise, adhere to a healthy diet, and maintain a healthy weight. If you have diabetes, you should aggressively control it as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol.”

But if screening tests indicate a problem and your doctor does suspect CAD, he or she may recommend any of several tests to confirm the diagnosis. These include:
  • An electrocardiogram, or EKG. This is a simple, painless test that records the heart’s electrical activity and can show signs of heart damage.
  • Stress testing.  During a stress test, you exercise to increase your heart rate. The test can detect abnormal changes in your heart rate, heart rhythm, or blood pressure.
  • Echocardiography. Sometimes simply called echo, this test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart that can reveal poor blood flow and areas of the heart that aren’t working correctly.
  • Chest X-ray. X-rays also provide pictures of your heart.
  • Blood tests. These will detect abnormal levels of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in your blood.
  • Coronary angiography and cardiac catheterization. During this test, a doctor will insert a thin tube into a blood vessel and thread it up to your coronary arteries. A dye is sent through the tube, and X-rays are taken while the dye is flowing through your arteries. This lets the doctor study the flow of blood in your heart and blood vessels.
Just remember that although early detection of heart disease can protect your future health and maybe even save your life, preventing it in the first place should be the ultimate goal.
Posted by: Andrea Mongler | Submit comment | Tell a friend

Categories: Health

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