Your Summer Heart Check-Up: Catch early warning signs before they become serious problems

Heart health

By pH health care professionals

Summer is a good time to think about heart health. Fresh produce is abundant, providing a bounty of antioxidants. And you can enjoy more time outdoors, soaking up some vitamin D from the sun. Perhaps you’re more active, taking advantage of the weather and going for a nice bike ride. Or you just got back from a family vacation, where you finally got that much needed rest and relaxation.

But even if you’re making healthy choices this summer, when it comes to your heart, what you don’t know can hurt you. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and some people may be more at risk than others. So be proactive. This means working with a good doctor and catching little problems early before they become big problems. It’s easier than you might think to give this vital organ a thorough check-up this summer.

Electrocardiogram

Even teenagers might undergo the easiest and cheapest heart test, called an EKG or ECG (electrocardiogram). EKGs involve electrical leads being applied to the chest. The electrical impulses of your heart create a waveform that doctors have correlated to healthy and unhealthy patterns. Not everyone needs an EKG, but it’s definitely a good idea if you are 50 or older. Younger patients who get the test might be about to start a strenuous athletic program (teen football players) or have a history of sudden death in the family at a young age  This simple screening test can be an important part of the sports physical.

Stress test

While EKGS are good for picking up heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythms, and susceptibility to certain medications causing the heart to go awry, they can’t show you how the heart tolerates beating faster and higher blood pressures inside it. That’s when you need a stress test.

People with a family history of heart disease are candidates for this test, as are people who have symptoms like chest pain or risk factors such as abnormally high cholesterol. In a stress test, you run on a treadmill while an EKG records how your heart responds. If you can’t run (that’s can’t, not won’t), you might get injected with a medication that revs up your heart while you sit quietly. The effect on the EKG is essentially the same. If your EKG looks abnormal, you might end up with a stent, a metal structure inside a heart artery to keep it open with blood flowing nicely. The stent can be placed during an invasive procedure called a catheterization.

Coronary calcium scan

A newer and more proactive procedure is called a coronary calcium scan. Calcium scans look for telltale deposits in the heart — even before symptoms of heart disease or even significant arterial plaque occur. The scan only takes about 10 minutes and can change the course of your diet and exercise plan, if the results look concerning. Most people who get this scan have a moderate risk of heart disease.

Advanced blood tests

Perhaps you already get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked on a regular basis, which is good. But did you know that nearly 50 percent of all heart attack victims have normal levels of typical markers for cardiovascular disease, including total cholesterol? More advanced testing is needed to identify a person’s predisposition to cardiovascular disease and who can benefit from preventative intervention. The pH Cardiovascular test looks at inflammation, lipid deposits, endothelial dysfunction, clotting factors, novel independent risk factors and more. Testing can be customized based on your consultation with a pH doctor, such as adding a cardiovascular nutrition profile and further testing genetic risk factors.

Talk to a competent doctor about what kind of heart tests you might need, and whether your insurance plan will cover heart checkups.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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