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What Are Heart Tests and How Can They Help You?
Apart from the brain, your heart is probably the most important organ in your whole body. It works 24/7 and it makes other organs function correctly by pumping blood rich in nutrients and oxygen. However, the heart can also be predisposed to different types of diseases.
According to the CDC, one person dies of a heart disease every 40 seconds in the US. Many heart problems are preventable, but you have to know if you're at risk for heart disease. This is where heart tests come into play.
Heart tests check the health of your heart and tell you if you should make appropriate lifestyle changes. All adults over the age of 20 should do a heart test at least once every few years, especially if they have family history of heart disease, are obese, have high blood pressure, and smoke. Keep reading to learn more about these tests and how they can help you.
What Are the Substances Checked by Heart Tests?
Lipid Panel and Lipoprotein A
One of the first substances checked by a standard heart test is cholesterol. This is usually called the basic lipid panel and it looks at the "good" cholesterol (HDL), "bad" cholesterol (LDL), triglycerides, and other similar substances.
Ordering the basic lipid panel is advisable for most adults over 20 years of age. The test will show you if your cholesterol levels are normal and if you're predisposed to heart disease in the future. Cholesterol is a waxy substance deposited inside your arteries and veins. Too much of it can lead to chronic heart problems. Most people with high cholesterol exhibit no symptoms until years later.
Similarly, lipoprotein (A) can predict premature atherosclerotic heart disease. This type of disease can thicken blood vessels and make them more rigid. If left untreated, it can lead to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and more. A lipoprotein (A) test is a common heart blood test for people of all ages.
Cardiac Reactive Protein (cCRP)
CRP or C reactive protein is a marker for inflammation in the body. Doctors usually test this substance to see if there's chronic low-level inflammation that could lead to life-threatening diseases later on. Cardiac C reactive protein (cCRP) looks specifically at inflammation that affects the circulatory system and the heart.
In other words, this test checks to see if you're at risk for cardiovascular disease at some point in the future. Elevated cCRP levels might indicate acute coronary syndrome, coronary artery disease, and other heart problems.
This is another substance that might indicate future cardiovascular issues. Homocysteine is produced in the body as a result of breaking down certain proteins. This substance might irritate blood vessels and lead to the hardening of the arteries and veins.
Checking homocysteine levels is also a common practice to see if a patient is predisposed to atherosclerosis in the future. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attacks and stroke, especially if it's undiscovered and untreated for years.
Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH)
Lactate dehydrogenase is present in many body tissues and it can be a good indicator of inflammation and health problems. There are several types of LD isoenzymes that suggest heart disease in certain patients. If these levels of lactate dehydrogenase are high, the patient needs further investigations immediately to discover the nature of his health issue.
Complete Blood Count
The health of your heart is strictly related to the quality of your blood. Different substances in your blood such as the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets dictate how well your heart behaves on a regular basis. That's why a complete blood count test is highly recommended to see if you're at risk for any heart disease in the future.
This panel also looks at your hematocrit, size of red blood cells, and other substances in your blood. Based on these preliminary results, you will know if you're generally safe when it comes to your heart or you need to do further investigations.
The Cardio IQ Advanced Lipid Panel
This panel checks your lipids in greater detail. Apart from looking at the different types of cholesterol in your blood, it also checks the number of LDL particles, size, as well as pattern. The same tests are performed for your HDL cholesterol too.
Your lipids are tightly related to the health of your heart. You might need to take this advanced test panel if your basic lipid panel came back with slightly bad results. This complex panel will help you determine the nature of your heart problem and whether you need treatment for it or not.
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Problems?
Heart disease shows immediate signs in adults of all ages. Since your heart is probably the most important organ in your body, you shouldn't ignore the following symptoms:
- Chest pain and shortness of breath - might signify atherosclerotic disease (aka thickening of blood vessels)
- Pain in your extremities - numbness or pain in your legs, fingers, ears, and other body extremities might be related to heart problems
- Racing heartbeat - if it happens occasionally, it can be a sign of tachycardia
- Lightheadedness and dizziness - these symptoms are common in people with heart problems and high blood pressure
- Fatigue and fainting sensations - might indicate a weak heart muscle
Pick Your Heart Test Today!
As you can see, doctors have devised a wide range of tests to determine how well your heart is performing. Remember to check your blood pressure and cholesterol every few weeks, exercise at least 3 times per week, and consume vegetables and fruits. From time to time, do a heart blood test as well to discover serious heart problems earlier on.
Based on the results that will come back from the lab, your doctor might suggest appropriate lifestyle changes to prevent life-threatening heart problems. But it all starts with you doing the right thing and ordering a test from the list below.