When was the last time you visited a doctor for a cardiac exam? Perhaps you, like many other people, belong to the category of persons who do not consider it necessary to undergo regular examinations?
According to the WHO – diseases of the cardiovascular system occupy one of the first places among the causes of death worldwide. Given all this, it is difficult to underestimate the importance of regular examinations and a visit to the doctor can be good idea. Remember that it is always easier to prevent the development of the disease than to cure it.
WHY A HEART EXAMINATION IS SO IMPORTANT?
Cardiovascular disease is a general term that combines a variety of pathological conditions.
Most often, these conditions imply ischemic heart disease (CHD), heart failure, heart attack, arrhythmias, congenital defects, pericarditis.
Regular examinations of the cardiovascular system can detect risk factors or their signs leading to the development of diseases.
Understanding the level of risk makes it possible to adjust lifestyles and prevent the development of pathology.
In situations where the disease has already developed, timely screening helps to prescribe treatment in time and avoid the development of dangerous complications (heart attack and stroke).
WHAT CARDIOLOGIST CHECK DURING A CHECK UP?
There are fairly large number of features and indicators to which experts pay attention during the diagnosis. Diagnostic criteria include both physical tests and anamnesis, as well as laboratory and instrumental research methods.
If your family members suffered from cardiovascular diseases, you are in a high-risk zone due to genetic predisposition. Your doctor may ask questions about your family members, your lifestyle and habits. Hypodynamia (sedentary lifestyle), unhealthy diet, alcohol and smoking significantly increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
During laboratory tests, great attention will be paid to assessing the levels of lipids and their fractions. The analysis combining all important lipid parameters is also called a lipidogram or lipid profile. It includes indicators of total cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoproteins of high, low, very high and very low density, as well as atherogenic level.
Lipid imbalance increases the risk of atherosclerosis. Among other things, being overweight is one of the dangerous risk factors for cardiac pathology.
Blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin
One of the most important indicators of carbohydrate metabolism of the body and markers of diabetes. Diabetes mellitus is a separate disease, but its presence significantly increases the risk of developing heart diseases. To reliably evaluate the results of this test, doctor may ask you not to eat at least 8 hours before the test.
In addition to the risk assessment, the necessary advanced hematological, biochemical and instrumental studies are conducted. In addition to the general blood test, measurements of blood pressure levels of the patient are carried out:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) – study records the electrical impulses occurring in the heart and propagate through it, causing a reduction in the myocardium. Cardiogram shows rhythm and conduction disturbances and is one of the primary non-invasive studies that help suspect abnormalities in the organ. The duration of this study is not more than 5-10 minutes. The cardiogram can be carried out both at rest and after exercise (exercise cardiac tests).
- Holter monitoring is the same cardiogram, but lasting from 24 to 72 hours. During the study, the patient connects to a portable device that records the electrical activity of the heart. This type of cardiogram is assigned to diagnose rhythm disturbances that could not be detected during a normal ECG. During the study, the doctor may ask to keep a detailed diary. So a specialist will be able to assess the reaction of the heart to daily, routine activity.
- Echo cardiogram is a non-invasive study that consists of assessing the state of the myocardium, valves, and other cardiac structures using ultrasound.
- Coronary angiography is an invasive study, the gold standard for diagnosing coronary artery disease and myocardial blood supply disorders. The procedure is carried out in a hospital. In an intervention, doctor passes a catheter with a contrast agent in the patient’s vascular system. This procedure is carried out under the control of x-rays.
- MR angiography is a non-invasive study using an MRI machine. This study uses magnetic radiation to assess the state of the heart and coronary vessels. It is used as an alternative to angiography (with contraindications for angiography or contrast intolerance), but often it has not such a high diagnostic value.
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED A CARDIOLOGICAL EXAMINATION?
If the blood pressure is within 120/80 mm Hg, a prophylactic cardiologic examination should be performed no more than once every two years.
Cholesterol levels should be evaluated every 4–6 years for patients with a normal level of risk. Blood sugar should be evaluated at least once every three years for healthy people.
- If you have:
- Sedentary lifestyle;
- Heart problems with relatives;
- Addiction to bad habits (alcohol, smoking);
- Stressful life condition;
- Lipid profile is disturbed, blood sugar is elevated, or there are chronic diseases of other organs and systems.
You must undergo regular comprehensive cardiac examinations at least once a year. Patients with diagnosed cardiovascular diseases may be prescribed certain stages of diagnosis every six months, depending on the degree of development of the disease.