A stress test is often recommended to determine a person’s risk for heart disease. This test is completed by running on a treadmill while being monitored with an EKG machine. The results of this test are used to help diagnose coronary artery disease, but if you’re a woman, it’s not that simple.
For about 35 percent of women who undergo the standard stress test, your results could be wrong or yield a false positive. This can occur as a result of women’s hormones fluctuating. In men, this isn’t the case, so men are less likely to be misdiagnosed than women.
Unfortunately, until now, the stress test was the only way doctors could determine whether someone had coronary artery disease. The good news is that advancements have now provided doctors with other more effective tests to help diagnose coronary artery disease. These tests include imaging and blood tests that provide doctors with more information to provide a proper diagnosis.
Tests That Can Help Save Your Heart
Cardiac calcium scoring
A CT scanner checks for atherosclerotic plaque in the heart’s arteries. This plaque is made up of calcium, cholesterol, and scar tissue. You are hooked up to an EKG and slid into a tunnel device where you are asked to hold your breath for 10 to 20 seconds at a time. This test can help your doctor determine your future heart attack risk, as calcified plaque is an early indicator of a heart attack and can show up at least 10 years prior to a heart attack or stroke. A score of over 200 indicates that changes need to be made to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Carotid intimal medial thickness test
This is an ultrasound that looks at the carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain. Abnormal thickness of the carotid lining could indicate possible blood flow blockages that can contribute to a future stroke. You test will provide you with two numbers: thickness of the carotid lining and your arterial age. An arterial age of over eight indicates a higher risk of stroke, so treatment and preventative measures need to take place.
High-sensitivity C-reactive protein test
Damage to the arteries caused by cholesterol plaque leads to inflammation that raises c-reactive protein levels (CRP) in the blood. A high level of CRP can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke nearly four times. High CRP levels are even more dangerous if you have a waist circumference greater than 33 inches. A test score between 1.0 and 3.0 mg/l reveals a moderate risk for a heart attack and above 3.0 mg/l indicates a high risk. It’s important that this test is done on three separate occasions for the best results to determine risk.
Advanced lipid profile and lipoprotein test
This cholesterol test measures all types of cholesterol and fat in the blood. The advanced test even looks at the particle size, which is important because small, dense particles could form plaque clumps along the arteries. The greater amount of these particles you have, the higher your risk of a stroke or heart attack. Ideally, you don’t want more than 15 percent of your particles to be small and dense.
A1C glucose test
This test measures average blood sugar levels over the last three months and does not require fasting or drinking a beverage. This test can detect a future risk of diabetes, which is linked to heart problems. Results over 6.5 indicate diabetes. Anything below that shows prediabetes, which is when you should take the necessary steps to reduce your risk of developing full-on diabetes.
Lab tests can check for mutated genes of KIF6 and APOE. Mutations in these genes have been linked to heart disease. Although you can’t control your genes, it’s still important to know your risk because there are other lifestyle factors you can change to help reduce your risk and keep your heart healthy.
This is an improved version of the standard stress test because it uses an ultrasound before and after exercise to evaluate blood flow from the heart. It can also check for any potential blockages. Adding in an ultrasound to the standard test increases efficiency 85 percent among women.
Speak to your doctor about undergoing any of these tests to ensure your heart is at its healthiest. They recommend one or a combination of tests to provide you with the most reliable diagnosis along with prevention and treatment methods.