Heart Screenings and Preventive Measures
February is National Heart Month and SignatureMD would like to address the importance of heart screenings and preventive measures. Along with Life Line Screening, the leading provider of community-based preventive health screenings in the United States, we are able to observe early risk factors for heart disease and offer preventive actions.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Risk factors for heart disease vary by age and sex. According to WebMD, some uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease include your gender, age, family history, race, and whether you’re post-menopausal. However, there are risk factors that are within our control such as:
- High LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and low HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
- Uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Physical inactivity.
- Obesity (more than 20% over one’s ideal body weight).
- Uncontrolled diabetes.
- High C-reactive protein.
- Uncontrolled stress and anger.
Heart Disease Screenings
Heart screenings are comprehensive exams, intended to detect initial signs of high cholesterol, elevated C-reactive proteins, peripheral arterial disease, high glucose, abnormal heart rhythms, and much more. Screenings can include an EKG, Chest X-Rays, Stress Tests, Tilt Table Tests, Echocardiogram, Cardiac Catheterization, Electrophysiology Test, CT Heart Scan, Myocardial Biopsy, Heart MRI, and/or Pericardiocentesis.
To determine your stress level, your concierge physician will first need to know the basics; your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and physical heart health. Your physician will literally run you through some physical tests, by having you briskly walk on a treadmill, in order to observe how your heart handles stress..
This stress test will monitor your heart rate to ensure you have a regular heart rhythm, as well as evaluate your heartbeat to be sure your heart and valve function sounds. Additionally, the test will gage your systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. According to WebMD, your physician can also assess your heart’s functionality by examining other parts of your body such as your eyes, arms, legs and skin.
A cholesterol screening will be another one of the first things that your concierge physician will want to run. This is probably one of the simplest tests, as it involves just a prick of the finger. According to our partners at Life Line Screening, this comprehensive screening measures three different kinds of lipids in the blood – good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. In addition, the complete lipid panel also measures total cholesterol – the combined amount of these three lipids.
Many have heard the term ‘an EKG test,’ but do you know what it entails or what it stands for? EKG stands for electrocardiogram, and it’s a test that records the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG might be combined with your stress test to investigate further into your risk for heart disease.
An EKG is specifically used to assess your heart rhythm, diagnose poor blood flow to the heart muscle, diagnose a heart attack, and evaluate certain abnormalities of your heart, according to WebMD.
Lower Heart Disease Risks
Heart disease affects millions of Americans, but there are preventive measures that you can take in order to lower your risk. Staying active, getting the blood flowing, occasionally getting your heart rate up, and eating healthy are a few of the important steps in preventing heart disease.
If you’re a smoker, quit immediately. Smokers have more than twice the risk factors for heart disease as nonsmokers. If you are a smoker, you are not only dramatically increasing your risk; you are increasing the risk factors of everyone around you. Those who are exposed to second-hand smoke also have an increased risk of heart disease.
If you have poor eating habits, change them. A healthy heart diet is crucial to preventing heart disease. Reduce your cholesterol levels by eating a low cholesterol diet that is high in nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains have actually been proven to lower your risk for heart disease.
Above all, stay active and manage your stress levels. If you spend your days stressed at work in front of the computer, and your weekends with a cold beer on the couch in front of the TV, you are at risk for heart disease. By consciously breathing, opening up your chest and lungs, and increasing your aerobic activities, you can lower your risk factors.
SignatureMD (signaturemd.com), with offices in Los Angeles, California and Richmond, Virginia, is one of the nation’s largest providers of initial conversion and ongoing support services to concierge medicine physicians, with an expanding network of over 160 affiliated primary care physicians and specialists across 31 states.