Did you know that at least 20% of heart-related deaths occur in American adults under 65?
It’s true: Preventing a potential disaster is always the best way to avoid becoming a victim. There’s no time like the present to start getting up close and personal with your heart. The more you know, the less likely you are to find yourself with a serious problem later on.
If you’ve ever wondered how to test cardiovascular health at home or have been curious about the different ways doctors can get closer to your cardiovascular system, read on. Why not do what you can to stay ahead of the curve yourself?
Partner with a medical professional to test cardiovascular health
At the doctor’s office or under the care of a medical professional, what’s the most common type of heart test? Cardiovascular health tests of many types can be used to diagnose and monitor one of the most important muscles in your body:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): Electrocardiogram machines use electrodes attached to the patient’s body; the heart’s electric signals are recorded and documented as a live line graph of a person’s heartbeat.
- Echocardiogram: This sound wave-based heart test is used when more detailed information on the blood’s path through the heart is required. The test detects problems inhibiting blood flow.
- Stress tests: Your doctor may ask you to step onto a treadmill or to ride a stationary bike for a given interval, testing your heart activity after you’ve elevated your heart rate.
- Cardiac catheterization or coronary angiogram: A specialist uses a catheter to flood your circulatory system with a light-sensitive dye, helping to discern issues more clearly after photographing your system with an X-ray.
- Cardiac CT scan: This can be considered the next step up from an ordinary X-ray. The test uses X-ray images acquired from many different angles, resulting in a much deeper glimpse into your cardiovascular health.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A magnetic field works alongside a computer program, creating a highly detailed image of the heart in motion.
Aside from these tests, there’s another meaningful way your doctor tests heart health: blood pressure tests. A blood pressure cuff should be familiar to most adults.
Blood tests are almost universally beneficial, giving your doctor insight into how major organ systems are functioning, including the liver and the kidneys. Blood tests can also help determine whether you’re predisposed to heart disease through metrics like cholesterol content and the lipids in your bloodstream.
How to test cardiovascular health at home
The most obvious way to test your heart at home? You can always start with a simple pulse reading. First, find a place to sit and allow your body to settle. Then:
- Gently press two fingers into a pulse point, just under your jaw or on the inside of your wrist.
- Using a timer, count the number of beats you feel for 60 seconds.
- Record your pulse in a daily journal or report it to your physician.
It’s best to check your pulse around the same time every day if you’re already under medical supervision. Avoid pressing too hard into your pulse point, which may impede the flow and affect your results. A stethoscope helps if you have one handy, but it’s not usually necessary.
Those grappling with chronic cardiovascular disease already know how to test cardiovascular health at home—a Holter monitor is a small, wearable device that records your heart’s rhythm to help understand myriad unexplained symptoms. If you wear a smartwatch, you may be able to accomplish essentially the same on your wrist.
Tips for maintaining cardiovascular health
To test cardiovascular health is one thing. More important than the tests themselves, however, will be how you adjust your daily activities after learning more about your body.
Keeping your heart healthy can be easy. How many of these healthy habits can you check off your list?
- Get plenty of exercise, ideally once a day
- Avoid saturated and trans fats, identified by their tendency to remain solid at room temperature
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats
- Avoid smoking, tobacco, and alcohol
- Cut down on processed and fried foods
- Manage your sleeping schedule, aiming for 7 – 8 hours a night
- Ask your doctor to test cardiovascular health at least once a year
- Stay hydrated; drink plenty of water
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