There are few non-invasive tests available to help your doctor check for any abnormality of the heart.
Electrocardiogram (ECG) is a short test that monitors the electrical activity in your heart and makes a graph of your heart's electrical activity. The whole test takes about 5-10 minutes and is completely painless. You will need to lie still because moving can affect the results.
During an ECG, your doctor will place ten small electrodes on your limbs and chest that measure your heart's electrical activity and will detect any:
- abnormal heartbeat
- heart muscle damage
- blood flow problems in the arteries
- heart enlargement
- patterns that are commonly associated with heart attacks
- other dangerous cardiovascular conditions.
Echocardiogram is an ultrasound of your heart which evaluate your heart valves and heart muscles. It uses sound waves to create a picture of your heart. The echo looks at the structure of your heart and the heart valves, and also gives information on the function and pumping action of your heart. The test can take from 15 minutes up to an hour. It is a safe and easy test, and most people find it’s not uncomfortable at all.
During an Echocardiogram, your doctor uses the probe and it will be placed in different areas of your chest which gives off pulses of high frequency sound waves which pass through your skin to your heart. The ultrasound waves ‘echo’ against the structures of your heart and the probe picks up these reflections and shows them in pictures on the screen of the echo machine. The cardiologist can see different parts of the heart as the probe is moved around on your chest. The sound waves can determine how much blood is pumped out by the heart when it contracts.
Coronary Calcium Scoring
Coronary Calcium Scoring detects and measure calcium-containing plaque in the arteries. This scan looks for specks of calcium (calcifications) in the walls of the coronary (heart) arteries. These calcifications are an early sign of coronary heart disease. Through computed tomography (CT) images of the heart, build-up of dangerous plaques — which restrict the flow of blood to the heart — can be detected, even before a person develops symptoms of heart disease. Plaque narrows the coronary arteries, reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart. This can lead to chest pain or discomfort called angina. The buildup of plaque also makes it more likely that blood clots will form in your coronary arteries. If blood clots block a coronary artery, a heart attack will occur.
This test is generally painless and fast. Due to the advanced equipment now used for this type of scanning, the scan duration are significantly reduced with very low radiation exposure.
By using this scan for screening, the doctors can detect problems earlier, which give the patient an opportunity to make lifestyle changes to help avoid developing heart disease — such as by improving nutrition, starting to exercise or quitting smoking.
24-hour ECG Recorder or Holter Monitoring
24-hour ECG Recorder or Holter Monitoring records your heart's rhythm for 24 hours as you go about your daily activities. It's safe and completely painless. It can help diagnose symptoms - such as palpitations - which do not happen all the time. Different people experience heart palpitations in different ways. Palpitations can feel like the heart is fluttering, throbbing, murmuring, or pounding. They can also feel like the heart skips a beat. This can be annoying and frightening. Palpitations can be caused by a wide range of abnormal heart rhythms.
Small patches called electrodes are stuck onto your chest and attached to a recorder that you carry in a pocket or wear around your neck or waist. During the test, you keep a diary of what you are doing and how you feel, along with the time of day of each entry. While you’re wearing the ECG recorder, you can do everything you would normally do - except have a bath or shower. When you return the monitor to your doctor, your will look at the recording to see the computer analyzed results and may give clues as to the underlying cause of palpitations.
In some cases, palpitations can be a sign of a more serious heart condition such as heart failure or cardiac arrest especially when it last a few minutes or more, or are combined with other symptom. If your heart palpitations come along with any symptoms like dizziness, feeling unsteady, fainting, or chest discomfort or pain, it may be a sign your heart’s functioning may be compromised. So, if you notice repeated episodes of heart palpitations, make an appointment with your doctor. They can test your heart to make sure it is working as it should so you can skip worrying about your health the next time your heart skips a beat.
Exercise Stress Test
An exercise stress test is a screening tool used to test the effect of exercise on your heart. It is considered to be a very safe and cheap test that gives very important information about the health of the heart. This simple test is usually performed under the supervision of a Cardiologist. There are various reasons as to why you need a stress test. This test is particularly useful for patients with a history of chest pain whereby there is a need to rule out blockages in the heart arteries. In addition, a stress test also indirectly reflects the health of the heart in patients with multiple risk factors (as discussed above).
The Cardiologists in Island Hospital have access to advanced imaging and blood tests that gives accurate assessment of heart attack risk. The test results are the best ways to tell if you are at risk of heart diseases before they develop noticeable symptoms and, if so, how severe is your condition. Complications of heart disease include heart attack and stroke. You can reduce the risk of complications with early diagnosis and treatment. Each patient’s case is unique. To help you understand the best type and methods of heart disease treatment and prevention, make an appointment to see any of our Cardiologists at Island Hospital.
Identifying risks and symptoms of heart diseases are the journey to maintaining a healthy happy heart.