Heart disease is called “the silent killer,” because there are often no definite symptoms or indications of the illness until it can be too late. Many people don’t know they have heart disease until they suffer a heart attack or stroke.
Heart Disease Can Develop Without Showing Clear Symptoms
For This, It Is Often Called “The Silent Killer”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America today. Every twenty seconds, someone has a heart attack. Early testing and preventive care could save thousands of lives every year.
Getting tested for heart disease
Getting tested for heart disease should not be neglected or unduly delayed. Your physician can evaluate your risk level as part of a regular physical exam. If there are reasons for concern, more specific tests may be warranted to form an accurate diagnosis. Your and your family’s medical history may also determine what monitoring procedures are adequate.
There are a number of diagnostic measures available to test for heart disease. The simplest ones are the “non-invasive” ones, meaning that no instruments are inserted into the body. By contrast, “invasive” tests may require the use of needles, surgical instruments or contrast dyes. Depending on the patient’s symptoms and the physician’s judgment, a combination of test procedures may be in order.
Chest X-ray – Taking X-ray images of the heart to determine whether there is visible damage to the heart muscle.
Resting Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – A reading of the heart’s electrical impulses while the patient rests to determine the presence or absence of heart damage.
Signal-Averaged Electrocardiogram (SAECG) – Computerized analysis and clarification of ECG signals to identify an acute risk of cardiac arrest due to abnormal rhythm of the ventricles in the heart.
Holter Monitor (ambulatory electrocardiogram) – Similar to ECG, but portable and worn by patients for 24 hours to record the heart’s electrical currents over the course of an entire day. Helpful for diagnosing silent ischemia (shortage of oxygen to the heart muscle).
Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan) – Similar to taking X-rays for more detailed imaging of the heart and blood vessels.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – A.k.a. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) imaging, this test provides three-dimensional pictures of the heart, its chambers and vessels without the need for injected contrast dyes.
Echocardiogram – Images of the heart and the heart’s valves created through sound waves. This test can be done at rest or while exercising.
Exercise stress test – An ECG records the heart’s electrical impulses and
monitors changes in the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing during exercise. The test shows whether blood supply to the heart is impaired. The results are also useful to set guidelines for safe exercising and sports.
Coronary Angiography/Coronary Arteriography – For this test, a contrast dye is injected into the blood stream. X-ray images are taken as the dye moves into the blood vessels of the heart. This test is useful for identifying blockages to the heart.
MUGA Scan – So-called “radionuclides” are injected into the blood stream. They are monitored through computers as they enter the heart. This test provides details about the blood flow to the heart and the health of the heart chambers.
Thallium stress test – Thallium (a soft silvery metallic chemical) is injected into the blood stream and photographed as it travels through the blood vessels. This test can determine whether blood flows normally to the heart, and it can also detect any damages from previous heart attacks.
Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) – A tracer gets injected in the blood stream and is carried to the heart. A computer image of the heart is then created to detect and diagnose damages or abnormalities.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) – A radionuclide dye is injected into the blood and computerized images are taken to detect complex disturbances in the heart.
Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) – A tube is placed in the throat of the patient to enable the insertion of a sound waves emission and recording device. A detailed image of the heart and the valves is then created through sound waves.
Cardiac Catheterization (Coronary Angiography) – A catheter is placed into the heart to take images and measure the pressure level inside. This test can provide detailed information about the health of the heart muscle, pumping ability and blood flow.