See also: Hypertension and Massage
- If you've had a heart attack, the doctor will review your medical history and examine you. He or she may use an electrocardiogram to discover any heart abnormalities and may use a blood test to detect enzyme level abnormalities in the bloodstream.
- If you're worried about heart disease, several tests can diagnose possible heart disease depending on your risk factors, history of heart problems, symptoms and your doctor's interpretation of these factors. The doctor will probably begin with the simplest test and use more complicated ones later on.
- Some tests are invasive. That is, they involve inserting needles, instruments or fluids into the body.
- These tests include nuclear imaging (MUGA scan, thallium stress test, SPECT test and PET test) and other imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). Another invasive test is the cardiac catheterization, also known as coronary angiography.
- Noninvasive tests include a resting electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), signal-averaged electrocardiogram (SAECG), chest X-ray, Holter monitor (ambulatory electrocardiogram), echocardiogram or exercise stress test.
- The best tests for diagnosing heart disease in women are the technetium and stress echocardiogram imaging tests. In the technetium, the woman walks on a treadmill while a radioactive isotope is injected into the bloodstream to track blood flow.
- The traditional ECG is less accurate for women -- it may produce false positives and negatives.
- If your doctor determines you're at risk for heart disease, certain preventive measures can lower your risk of having a heart attack -- such as quitting smoking, lowering blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels, managing stress levels, increasing your amount of exercise, lowering your weight and treating your diabetes, if you have it.
- If you quit smoking, your risk for heart attack is cut in half one year later. You also improve your blood flow and lung function, lower your risk for stroke and cancer, and help stop bronchitis and emphysema from worsening.
- Patients with high blood pressure should control their weight, consume moderate portions of alcohol and salt, and get enough exercise. If your blood pressure is higher than 140/90 mm Hg, you may have high blood pressure and should have it checked yearly by your doctor.
- Blood cholesterol is another important factor to watch. If your cholesterol level is at 240 mg/dL or above, you increase your risk of heart disease. Your doctor will likely check your levels of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol). A high level of LDL cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease, as does a low level of HDL cholesterol. All adults 20 years of age or older should have their blood cholesterol level checked at least once every five years.
- Recent studies show that moderate alcohol intake (1-2 drinks/day) may lower the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks by raising the level of "good" HDL cholesterol. However, it isn't clear if this is how alcohol lowers the risk of heart attack. Individuals should consult with their doctor, and should not use alcohol in place of confirmed preventive measures.
- Individuals should exercise between three to four times each week for 30 minutes, and maintain a desirable weight, with a body mass index between 21 and 25 kg/m2.
- Women at risk may want to consider estrogen replacement in postmenopause, especially if they have other risk factors, like high cholesterol.