When should I have heart tests done regularly?
According to cardiologist Tariq Dayah, MD, it's both sensible and advised to have at least an annual physical exam with a primary care physician (PCP) when you get into middle age.
But, that doesn't mean that you should start testing for heart-related concerns. Instead, ask your doctor if you have concerning symptoms. Although it's reasonable that you'll begin to think about your heart health as you age, it isn't the most useful to worry unnecessarily either if you aren't having any specific, concerning symptoms.
We advise you to talk with your PCP about this question first before seeing a heart specialist for any reason.
It's not advisable to go directly to a cardiologist and undergo routine cardiac testing unless you experience chest pain symptoms. Otherwise, this could lead to undergoing a lot of unnecessary testing that may lead to unnecessary procedures.
Should I get a stress test?
These are not recommended without concerning symptoms.
For example, if we perform a treadmill stress test in an otherwise healthy person, and the results come back are abnormal — the test likely is a false positive. A false-positive test is when the results indicate a condition or finding that does not exist. Undergoing false-positive treatments for something that doesn't exist can be just as bad for you, if not worse.
Should I get a heart scan?
Likewise, many people ask about undergoing a heart scan to look for calcium problems.
However, if you're otherwise healthy, heart scans aren't recommended either. It requires significant radiation and is not in the best interest of most people to have this test.
Tests recommended for your heart.
Dr. Dayah recommends going other routes first before seeing a cardiologist or getting heart-related tests done. The only heart-related tests appropriate for the majority of people who are not experiencing troublesome symptoms are the ones that measure your blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
These blood tests are very important numbers to know — you should have these done annually. If the results reveal concerning information, they can indicate that you may need to make changes to improve your diet and lifestyle to begin proactively living heart-healthy. These tests may also show a need to start blood pressure or cholesterol medications.
What should I do to keep my heart healthy?
Developing good, healthy habits is a much better path, at the end of the day, than undergoing any number of routine testing to look for heart conditions that may or may not exist. Now is always a good time to start following a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, avoiding stress, and getting better sleep. These are all excellent techniques to keep your heart in great shape.
Your good health is our goal. We will always recommend what we believe is your best route forward, particularly when it comes to keeping you ticking through life.
If you're experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, or feeling faint, call your doctor or go to the emergency room.