What is Heart Screening?
A heart screening, also known as a cardiac screening, is a series of tests conducted by your cardiologist to check for any possible conditions related to heart function. Screening is usually done before any onset of symptoms and is more of a preventive measure to identify any potential cardiac issues one may have.
Tests Related to Heart Screening
Before tests are run, your cardiologist conducts a pre-screening clinical evaluation, which includes getting a detailed account of your medical history and a physical examination.
Blood tests are also carried out to check for kidney and liver function, as well as to check your cholesterol levels and risk of diabetes. Other common tests are:
This is a simple, non-invasive test used to check your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. Sensors are attached to the skin to detect the electrical signals produced by the heart every time it beats. An ECG is often used to investigate symptoms of a possible heart problem and can help detect arrhythmias and the possibility of coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and cardiomyopathy.
Exercise Treadmill ECG Test (TMX)
An exercise treadmill ECG, or exercise stress test, shows how your heart works in response to physical stress. As exercise causes the heart to pump harder and faster, an exercise cardiac stress test helps detect heart issues that may not be detectable while it is at rest.
The test usually involves monitoring your heart rhythm, pressure and breathing while using a treadmill. An exercise cardiac stress test might also be done to determine if any current cardiac treatments are working well. It is also performed to check the heart before any cardiac surgery.
Coronary Calcium Score (Ca Score)
A coronary calcium score helps measure how much calcified plaque is in your coronary arteries. A higher score indicates more presence of calcium and a higher risk of heart disease. A score of 100-300 means moderate plaque deposits, which is associated with a relatively high risk of a heart attack or other heart disease over the next three to five years.
A score greater than 300 is a sign of very high to severe heart disease and heart attack risk. Some healthcare providers might give a percentile score also, which indicates your amount of calcium compared to people of the same age and sex.
Coronary CT Angiography (CTCA)
A CT Scan, or Coronary CT Angiography, helps your cardiologist obtain detailed images of the heart and coronary arteries, providing information on whether you have narrowed or blocked arteries.
A CTCA involves some exposure to radiation and might not be suitable for pregnant women. The test might involve using certain dyes to help blood vessels show clearly, so do let your healthcare provider on any allergies or concerns that you might have.
Images of the test should be ready shortly after your test whereby your cardiologist can discuss the results with you and advise treatment options accordingly.
Transthoracic Echocardiography (TTE)
A transthoracic echocardiography utilises ultrasound technology to evaluate the heart’s structure and function of the heart, valves and heart vessels. This involves a probe placed on the chest. This probe emits sound waves that travel through the chest cavity, and when these waves are reflected back (echoes), images are formed.
This test also helps your cardiologist monitor your heart conditions over time and helps determine if there is any structural damage to the heart after a heart attack.
This list is not exhaustive, and there may be other diagnostic tests recommended by your cardiologist.
How Often should one undergo Heart Screening?
Simple tests like a blood pressure reading and cardiovascular risk factor screening should begin at 20 years old, with most tests performed every 1-2 years.
However, as we age, our risk of developing heart issues increases. Men aged 40 and above, and women, as they approach menopause, are recommended to go for more comprehensive heart screenings at least once a year. It is also recommended if you experience cardiac symptoms, or if you have one or more of the following risk factors for cardiovascular disease:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- History of cardiac disease
- Overweight or obese
Heart screening is a preventative measure, making it ideal to go for heart screening before symptoms arise.
If you are diagnosed with a heart condition, you may have to visit your cardiologist as often as every three months, depending on your condition.
Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand what heart screening is and what some of these tests entail. They are generally non-invasive and are vital to the early detection of any heart disease.
Here at Capital Heart Centre, Dr Joshua Loh will conduct a pre-screening evaluation to get a baseline understanding of your condition or current concerns, and will recommend what tests would be best for you. If you would like to go for a heart screening, please consult your cardiologist.