Diagnosing heart disease is much easier now than it was just a few short decades ago. Fortunately, this means that many people are living longer and learning to battle heart disease before it has a chance to take their lives. The tests that you might undergo for diagnosing heart disease depend upon your risks, symptoms and any history of heart problems for you and those in your immediate family. Expect your doctor to begin diagnosing heart disease by taking a thorough medical history, paying attention to your symptoms and running tests, such as laboratory work and an electrocardiogram. The result of these tests can determine whether further tests are needed.
How to Diagnose Heart Disease
To begin diagnosing heart disease, it is important to start with a visit to the doctor. Only medical tests can help determine what your true risk is.
1. Visit a Doctor
When you do go to see a doctor, expect to have many questions and tests run during that time. Your doctor will begin with detailed questions.
- Symptoms. What has been happening that makes you worry about heart disease? Are you dealing with things like dizziness, fainting, chest pain, shortness of breath, or other issues?
- Medications. What kind of medications are you taking? The medications here can refer to both those that are prescribed and those that are over the counter, including any herbal medications.
- Family history. Does anyone in your family have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or similar problems? What about related conditions, like strokes or diabetes?
- Lifestyle. What is your life like? How is your diet? Do you exercise? You lifestyle may have a connection to your heart health. Besides, your doctor might ask other questions, such as whether you drink or use illicit drugs.
2. Do Some Tests
Diagnosing heart disease also includes going through several tests to make sure all is working as it should be. These tests might include:
- Electrocardiogram. Also known as an EKG, this test is a very simple, painless procedure that measures the electrical activity of the heart, including how it beats, the strength of it, the timing of the electrical signals that naturally pass through the heart and more. This test can detect a recent or current heart attack, as well as other problems.
- Stress tests. If your doctor is uncertain about what is going on with your heart, you might be asked to endure stress tests. These tests speed your heart rate up and allow your doctor to record what happens in your body when it does. This can be done either through exercise or medication. Images can be taken of your heart and your vital signs will be monitored throughout. This test can show evidence of heart disease.
- Echocardiography. This procedure uses painless sound waves to look at your heart and determine if there are any problems.
- X-ray. This simple procedure allows doctors to take a look inside your chest cavity through radiological films.
- Blood tests. What is going on with your heart usually spills over into your blood, and your doctor can tell a great deal from a simple blood draw.
- Coronary angiography and cardiac catheterization. This is a more invasive test that uses contrast dye and special x-rays to look right into your arteries, and thus give a better picture of what is going on inside you. During this procedure, a thin catheter is put into a vein in your neck, groin or arm. This tube then introduces the dye, and x-rays are taken as it flows through your body.
Besides the listed test, other tests might be performed as well, such as a cardiac MRI.
How to Reduce Your Risks of Heart Disease
When it comes to heart disease, one of the best ways to solve the problem is to prevent it in the first place. Start right now with these tips that can help you live a longer, healthier life.
1. Stop Smoking
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your heart. It increases your chances of a heart attack or other problems by over 50 percent. Stop right now, and avoid secondhand smoke, too.
2. Lower Your Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol can lead to serious problems down the road, so work now to bring those levels down. The best way to do this is with diet and exercise, and if that doesn’t work, medication might be in order.
3. Monitor High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the biggest indications that you might develop heart disease. Make sure to learn how to monitor your blood pressure and talk to your doctor about ways to keep it in check.
4. Do Physical Exercise
The more you move around, the better your chances are of avoiding heart disease. Even easy exercising, like walking or gardening, helps reduce your risk. The more active you are, the more likely you will live longer.
5. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Look to a diet that is filled with fruits, veggies, whole grains and all the proper nutrients. Try to keep your diet low in fat and cholesterol, and if you are diabetic, talk to your doctor about eating fewer carbohydrates.
6. Keep a Healthy Weight
Excess weight can put a strain on your entire body, including your heart. The more you weigh, the tougher it is for your heart to pump blood through your body. Work on that with good diet and exercise.
7. Control Your Moods
Stress can be a serious issue when it comes to heart disease. Do what you need to do to control your anger, alleviate depression and otherwise reduce stress in your life.
8. Watch Out for Diabetes
Diabetes can lead to serious problems throughout your body, including heart disease and the negative things that come along with it. If you have diabetes, speak to your doctor about proper care and help in avoiding the complications of heart disease.
Natural treatments can help a great deal. In the following video, a doctor discusses possible natural treatments that can help you lower your risk of heart disease: