5 Preventive Heart Screenings You Should Prioritize in 2024

Heart health

In the pursuit of overall well-being, prioritizing heart health is paramount. With cardiovascular diseases being a leading cause of mortality worldwide, staying proactive with preventive screenings is crucial. Going on regular screenings to evaluate heart health by monitoring cholesterol levels, electrocardiography (ECG), and other important heart health indicators is the best way to assess your heart, particularly for those under the age of 75 and those who have a strong family history of heart disease [1].

Here are five screenings you should prioritize in 2024 to safeguard your heart health:

1. Lipid Profile
Various cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease risk can be partly determined by measuring the various parameters like total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides. Elevated cholesterol levels have the potential to cause plaque accumulation in the arteries, hence raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.
It is normal to have a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL. A level between 200–239 mg/d is considered to be on the borderline of high.

Tip: Most healthy adults should have their cholesterol checked every 6 months. However, people who have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol need to get it checked more often.

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2. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
An ECG is a simple and noninvasive test that captures the electrical activity of the heart and can be used to identify heart blockage, irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), and indications of prior myocardial infarctions. Regular ECG screening can help guide further examination if abnormalities are found and can provide important information about heart health [2].

Tip: In asymptomatic patients from 50–60 years of age, an ECG can be done at a gap of 2 years. In patients over 60 years, ECG can be repeated at 1–2‐year intervals. However, in the case of heart issues exceptions are there [3].

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3. Stress Test
A stress test evaluates how well the heart functions during physical activity. It can help diagnose coronary artery disease and determine the presence of abnormal heart rhythms under stress, providing valuable information for cardiovascular risks.

Tip: Everyone is not recommended stress test. However, if someone with a heart history has undergone a stress test and is still asymptomatic, there is no need to repeat the test until it has been at least two years [4].

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4. CT Calcium Scoring Scan
CT stands for Computed Tomography and this test evaluates the amount of calcium buildup in the coronary arteries, providing insights into the risk of coronary artery disease and potential future cardiac events.

Tip: The scan is not for everyone. Since the body is exposed to radiation, you should only get it done if your doctor tells you to take it to find the cause of an underlying symptom. As most heart diseases go unnoticed, this is one way to identify early heart issues before you have a cardiac event.

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5. Cardiac Risk Markers
Cardiac risk markers are substances that can be measured in the blood to indicate the presence of heart damage or stress. These biomarkers are released into the bloodstream when there is an injury to the heart muscle or when there is increased strain on the heart.

Some commonly measured cardiac biomarkers include troponin, creatine kinase (CK-MB), myoglobin, and brain natriuretic peptide (BNP).

Troponin, in particular, is considered the gold standard biomarker for diagnosing heart attacks, as its levels rise rapidly and persist in the blood following myocardial injury.

Tip:  This test is usually recommended as a part of routine health screenings, especially for individuals with risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease. Also, it can be done when an individual experiences symptoms suggestive of heart disease.

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Remembering the importance of lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining a healthy diet, staying physically active, managing stress, and avoiding tobacco use, alongside regular screenings, can significantly contribute to better heart health.

Let us take charge of our cardiovascular well-being by making informed choices and prioritizing preventive care to ensure a healthier future for ourselves and our loved ones.

“Early Detection Can Safeguard Many Lives”

(The article is written by Simran Suri, Assistant Team Lead, and reviewed by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)

1. Thompson GR. Screening relatives of patients with premature coronary heart disease. Heart. [Updated 2002].
2. Obesity Prevention Source. Harvard T.H. CHAN.
3. Townsend RR. How often should “surveillance EKGs” be obtained in the follow-up of asymptomatic hypertensives? [Updated 2007]
4. How Often Should I Have a Stress Test? [Updated 2013].

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