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Heart disease is often not accompanied by any ailments. It is for this reason that we should systematically control our blood pressure and cholesterol, especially after the age of 40. What heart tests can your doctor order if you complain of heart problems?

Heart testsnot only detect diseases, but also prevent them. Not all of them are complicated and can only be done by a specialist. Some of us can make ourselves. It is a good idea to measure your blood pressure at least 12 times a year. It depends not only on the strength with which the heart works, but also on the tension and elasticity of the arteries and blood viscosity. The systolic (the so-called upper) pressure should not be higher than 139 mm Hg, and the diastolic (the so-called lower) pressure should not be higher than 89 mm Hg.

The development of atherosclerosis and the work of the heart are also influenced by the level of cholesterol (a fatty substance present throughout our body). After the age of 40, it is worth checking it every 1-3 years with blood tests. Total cholesterol in people over 30 years of age must not exceed 200 mg%. In a detailed study, it is divided into fractions: LDL (bad - it should not be more than approx. 135 mg%) and HDL (good - it is good to have above 35 mg%). What otherheart testsare performed?

Heart tests: electrocardiography (EKG)

We lie down comfortably on the couch, and the doctor or nurse attaches electrodes to our arms, legs and chest. The electrical currents produced in the heart muscle are recorded and any abnormalities in its work are assessed. Unfortunately, the EKG result is not entirely reliable; a correct electrocardiogram does not exclude coronary heart disease. The EKG allows to detect a current or previous heart attack.

Heart tests: exercise ECG

It is a more precise examination than an "ordinary" EKG. They are recommended for chest pains and during cardiac rehabilitation (e.g. after a heart attack or bypass surgery). It determines the efficiency of the heart muscle, the degree of the advancement of coronary artery disease, it also enables early detection of cardiac arrhythmias and reveals hypoxia, which indicates a narrowing in the coronary vessels. Before the examination, we must not eat a large meal or smoke. During an exercise ECG, we either walk on a treadmill or pedal while sitting on a stationary bicycle. For arms, legs andon the chest, electrodes are attached. At the same time, the camera worn on the hand measures our blood pressure.

Heart tests: Holter ECG

We have mini electrodes attached to our chest. They are connected to a Walkman-sized apparatus attached to a belt, for example. We carry the device around the clock or two. It records the ECG all the time on the magnetic tape - during exercise, under stress and in sleep. During the day, we record the hours of important activities and possible ailments. ECG using theHoltermethod allows to detect ischemic symptoms and arrhythmias: extrasystoles, paroxysmal tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, ventricular flutter.

Heart tests: echocardiography - echo of the heart (USG)

The doctor puts the ultrasound head to the chest and sees changes in the structure of the heart and abnormalities in its work on the monitor. This test is used after a heart attack to determine the extent of the changes. You can also assess the condition of all its parts (pericardium, atria, ventricles) and detect e.g. scars, aneurysms, clots. Sometimes the "echo" is made through the esophagus. You must then be on an empty stomach. The doctor introduces the head like a gastroscope and places it at the height of the heart under the monitor's control.

Heart examination: coronary angiography

Usually, the doctor inserts a special catheter through the femoral artery. He watches his way on the monitor. The catheter must go all the way to the heart. Through him, the so-called contrast, and from time to time a beam of X-rays passes through our body. As a result, stenosis and blockages of the coronary arteries become visible. This method allows you to determine whether to perform bypass or so-called balloon angioplasty (unblocking the arteries with a special balloon), or pharmacological treatment is sufficient. After the examination, we have to lie almost still for about eight hours.

Heart tests: MRI

Accurately examines the structure of the heart and the condition of the coronary arteries. We lie on a special bed that slides into the chamber for a few, several dozen minutes, where we are exposed to a magnetic field. We should remember that our body consists largely of water, and in it there are hydrogen atoms, especially susceptible to the magnetic field. Under its influence, they arrange them differently in he althy places than in pathologically changed ones. Information about the distribution of atoms is recorded by a special computer program - it converts the pulses into the image of the heart visible on the monitor.

Heart examination: scintigraphy

First, we get the radioactive isotope intravenously and wait a few or a dozen minutes for it to be absorbed by the heart muscle.Then we sit down or lie down in front of the so-called gamma camera. The radiation "coming out" from the heart is received by special crystals placed in the gamma camera head and converted into an image visible on the monitor. During this examination, not only the structure of the heart and coronary arteries can be assessed, but also the work of the heart muscle. After the examination, we should drink a lot of water, tea or juice to quickly remove the radioisotope accumulated in the body.

Coronary angiography: examination of the coronary arteries

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