4 Tests that Assess Your Heart Disease Risk - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on February 15, 2016

4 Tests that Assess Your Heart Disease Risk

Crozer-Keystone hospitals offer free blood pressure screenings each month.

Crozer-Keystone hospitals offer free
blood pressure screenings
each month.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. While there are some risk factors for heart disease that you can’t control, such as family history, there are many other risk factors you can manage.

The best way to know which risk factors for heart disease you have is through screenings. These tests can help detect your risk factors at their earliest stages.

Here are four tests that can tell you what your risk for heart disease is.

Blood Pressure

This may be one of the easiest tests you can endure to assess your heart disease risk – you just have to sit there while a doctor, nurse or other health professional wraps a cuff around your arm, inflates it and then reads the gauge while listening to your pulse with a stethoscope. What the health professional is measuring is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries.

When your heart beats, it pumps oxygen-rich blood out of the heart, into your arteries and to the rest of your body. This is called systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest between beats, your blood pressure falls – that’s the diastolic pressure.

As simple as getting your blood pressure checked is, it’s one of the most important screenings – high blood pressure doesn’t typically have any symptoms and can’t be identified without being measured. And high blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Blood Glucose

This test measures how much glucose, a type of sugar, is in your blood. Glucose is the main source of energy used in your body and comes from carbohydrates. The hormone insulin helps your body’s cells use it – your pancreas produces insulin and releases it into your blood when the amount of glucose in your blood rises, which is usually right after you eat. This all happens so that your blood glucose levels don’t get too high – if your blood glucose level remains too high over time, it can damage kidneys, nerves, blood vessels and eyes.

High blood glucose levels also put you at risk of developing insulin resistance, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, stroke and other serious health problems.

Fasting Lipoprotein Profile

This is a blood test that checks for high fats in the blood. With this blood test, you’re asked to fast overnight before. This screening measures total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides in your blood.

Having high LDL cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease – that’s because LDL cholesterol, aka the “bad” cholesterol, contributes to plaque that can clog arteries and make them less flexible, a condition called atherosclerosis. HDL cholesterol is considered the “good” one because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from arteries.

Triglycerides, another type of fat, store excess energy from your diet. High levels of triglycerides in your blood are linked to atherosclerosis as well.

Cardiac Calcium Scoring

Your cardiac calcium score is the result of a heart scan, which is also known as a coronary calcium scan. This scan shows your heart’s arteries and any calcium deposits in them, which can narrow your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack. This test can show you and your doctor if you have a higher risk of a heart attack or other heart-related issues before you ever have any obvious signs of heart disease.

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