Our heart is one of the most important and vital organs in our body. It is an extremely tireless workhorse of an organ, working 24/7 to pump clean blood to the whole body. If it ever gets damaged or decides to stop working suddenly, then chances are it might already be too late.That is why it is a good idea to monitor and periodically check our heart’s health by availing of a heart screening package at Cadence Heart Centre.
What exactly is a heart screening package?
A heart screening consists of a series of evaluations and tests done to inspect your heart and its overall health. Many hospitals and clinics offer multiple heart screening packages, with each package having a specific roster of tests for heart screening. Each of these packages are usually tailored to cater to specific needs, with the basic heart screening package usually including only the most essential tests while higher tier packages usually just improve on the basic one by including more tests to give a more complete overview of your cardiac health.
What evaluations and tests are usually included in a basic heart screening package?
- Pre-screening Clinical Evaluation
Before each of the tests in the package are administered, it is essential that you are first given a general clinical evaluation of your overall health to ensure that you are fit enough to undergo the upcoming tests. This is done because some tests may not be suitable for certain people.
The evaluation usually consists of a doctor’s consultation, an inquiry into your and your family’s medical history, and a general physical examination. Once you’ve been evaluated and are cleared by the doctors, you will then be allowed to undergo the other tests.
- Anthropometric Measurements
After or during the clinical evaluation, the doctors will also get some important body measurements, such as your height, weight, BMI (body mass index), and blood pressure to help in preparing the different tests for your body type.
- Blood Investigations
Usually, the very first tests done in a heart screening package are blood tests. A nurse or health worker will draw some of your blood which will then be sent to a laboratory for blood investigations. A lot of information can be gathered from your blood, including your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, as well as estimate the percentage risk of cardiac failure in the future.
- Electrocardiography (ECG)
A very common test to monitor the heart’s activity and health is the electrocardiogram (ECG). This test measures the electrical signals of the heart and gives you a basic picture of the heart rate and its patterns. During an ECG, several electrodes will be taped to your arms and legs to record your heart rate. An ECG can detect the presence of conditions such as arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), coronary artery disease and other heart diseases. It is also very useful for checking if certain treatments for heart disease are doing well, such as pacemakers.
- Exercise Treadmill ECG Test (TMX)
An ECG can also be done while the patient is running on a treadmill to measure and evaluate how the heart responds when it is under physical stress and fatigue. During this test, the patient is first measured while running on a low speed. This speed is then gradually increased, which in turn makes the heart work harder and harder. A TMX can help identify and detect heart disease that may otherwise not be found with a simple ECG test.
- Post-screening Clinical Evaluation
At the end of each heart screening package, another clinical evaluation is done by the doctor to ensure that your heart responded well to the administered tests and evaluations. This is especially useful if the test involved some physical stress or activity which is very useful in determining how your heart and body responds.
What other tests are offered by higher tier heart screening packages?
To get a more complete and thorough examination of your heart’s health, you may opt with higher tier heart screening packages which offer more than just the basic tests and evaluations. Some of these tests that are usually not offered in a basic heart screening package are the following:
- Coronary Calcium Score (CAScore)
This score is a measurement of how much calcium-containing plaque has built up in your arteries, with 0 pertaining to having no plaque buildup at all. To measure CAScore, the clinic uses a specialized X-ray test that takes pictures of the heart and measure the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. The buildup of calcium-containing plaque in the heart’s arteries is a common occurrence for older people, especially men. Studies have shown that people with metabolic syndrome, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and a high consumption of tobacco have a higher risk of developing coronary artery calcification.
- Transthoracic Echocardiography (TTE)
Another test that is a modification of an ECG is the transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). In this test, a specialist obtains an image of the patient’s heart by moving a transducer, which is a small instrument that sends sound waves into the body and measures the echoes that it creates. This is a painless test that will usually take about 30 to 60 minutes to finish. During that time, the specialist will move the transducer to different regions of your heart to give a complete picture of your heart’s overall health.
- Computerized Tomography Coronary Angiography (CTCA)
This specific test is done to create images of your heart that highlight the different arteries that supply blood to it. This test is often done to determine the cause of certain symptoms such as chest pain. A CTCA is a noninvasive procedure that uses a special X-ray machine to produce an image of the patient’s blood vessels. The main use of a CTCA is to check for any narrowed or blocked arteries, which can explain several different symptoms. However, many specialists also employ a CTCA to diagnose more complex heart conditions that may otherwise be left undetected from a basic heart screening package.