Reader Question and Answer:
Q: I was reading one of your blogs and was wondering what CVD screening actually is exactly - in other words, what kinds of tests are done if you have no risk factors. About a year ago I was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia. I don't need to take medication or anything, but it always worries me for those I love, and when I hear about stories like yours, I'm still concerned that my issues could develop into something more. So I would like to hear more about what the standard CVD screening would look like for those women without risk factors.
A: You can find the risk factor screening for women and heart disease everywhere you look on the internet. What you can't find is a screening protocol for women with no risk factors. Despite the fact that heart disease is affecting younger and younger women with no risk factors, there is no standard protocol for evaluating a woman who doesn't have risk factors. This is something Heartability would like to change.
CVD SCREENING with NO RISK FACTORS:
- Regular routine exams with primary care physician; make sure they LISTEN to your heart and lungs (for a heart murmur or lung obstruction) and take your vitals--blood pressure and pulse. Ask them what your blood pressure and heart rate are. Make a mental note so that if it changes from the previous appointment, you can note it when you talk to your doctor. Regular routine risk discussion with your doctor about your heart based on your lifestyle choices--smoking, diet, exercise. The more you tell your doctor about your everyday life, the better she or he can evaluate your risk.
- Birth control choices; express your concern about your heart and your birth control choices. Ask how the particular form of birth control you are on affects your heart health.
- Physical fitness and activity level; keep track of your fitness ability. Take a mental note when you have changes in energy levels or sleep patterns and the ability to do physical activity.
- Know symptoms of heart disease; If you feel lightheaded, palpitations or heart fluttering, fatigue, difficulty breathing under normal conditions, abnormal muscle soreness after workout, cold clamy hands or feet (poor circulation), talk to your doctor about your heart and symptoms you are experiencing.
- Personal ECG App; AliveCor is an app designed to be used with your smart phone to detect abnormal heart rhythms. At $79 it is an inexpensive tool in determining if there is a reason to be concerned.
- Clinical ECG/stress test; if you think you need a stress test performed by a clinician, talk to your doctor about your concerns and they may order a clinical version of an ECG to determine if any of your concerns are valid.
- Echocardiogram; finally, an echocardiogram, though expensive, is an easy way to determine both structural or electrical issues with your heart. Your doctor may not order an echo unless they have reason to suspect a heart condition.
Have your own questions and need answers? Email us and we will feature your question on the blog so you get the answers you need.