Best heart health tests for women
It is unwise to wait for symptoms to manifest before we take cognizance of heart issues in women and imperative to undergo necessary cardiac examinations at the appropriate age. Here are best heart health tests that are advised for women in the age group 20-40 and 40-60
Heart disease plays out differently in women as women tend to experience distinct symptoms when having a heart attack and have a higher likelihood of mortality within a year of the event while according to health experts, women may not respond as positively as men to clot-dissolving medications or particular medical procedures related to the heart. In cases where the onset of heart disease originates in childhood and progresses silently over time, they may culminate in a sudden and potentially fatal heart attack.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Tilak Suvarna, Senior Interventional Cardiologist at Asian Heart institute in Mumbai, insisted that it is unwise to wait for symptoms to manifest before we take cognizance of heart issues in women and imperative to undergo necessary cardiac examinations at the appropriate age. He suggested these tests for women in the age group 20-40:
1. Electrocardiogram (ECG) - By recording the electrical signals in the heart it helps to quickly detect heart problems and monitor the heart's health, such as arrhythmias (heart beats too slowly, too quickly, or irregularly), blocked or narrowed arteries, coordination of pacemaker with your body, cardiomyopathy (heart walls become thickened or enlarged) or any previous heart attacks.
2. Lipid profile - Also known as a cholesterol test or lipid panel. A lipid profile test is a blood test that helps to measure the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. It determines the risk of the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries that can lead to narrowed or blocked arteries throughout your body.
3. Fasting blood sugar - This test helps to measure blood sugar after an overnight fast. A fasting blood sugar level of less than 100 mg/dL is normal, from 100 to 125 mg/dL is considered prediabetes and 126 mg/dL or higher determines that you have diabetes.
For the age group 40-60, he prescribed the following tests -
1. Treadmill exercises stress test - It is done to evaluate the cause of chest pain or shortness of breath or as a part of a health check-up package to determine your heart's tolerance to exercise and to see if there are any narrowings in the heart arteries.
2. Imaging exercise stress test - Also known as nuclear or Sestamibi stress test or a Stress Echocardiography, it helps to evaluate the cause of chest pain if the stress test is inconclusive, as this test is much more accurate than a regular stress test.Stress Test
3. Heart CT scan for Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) Scoring - The coronary artery calcium (CAC) score measures the amount of calcified plaque you have in those arteries, which is important because coronary plaque is the main underlying cause to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease which can lead to events such as heart attacks and strokes. At any age, 0 is the ideal and normal calcium score. The test may be recommended to people with cardiovascular risk factors including high BP, high Cholesterol, Diabetes, family history of heart disease, and obesity among others. This test is useful for further risk stratification to determine the risk of having a heart attack and decide whether to start a statin (a cholesterol-lowering medicine) and aspirin.
4. CT Coronary Angiography - It may be required to rule out heart blocks as the cause of chest pain in women, in whom other tests like ECG, 2D-Echo, or Stress Test are inconclusive.
The key is that we cannot afford to wait for further research to deepen our understanding before taking actionable measures to mitigate heart risk among women.