The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions. Most screening is aimed at prevention of CAD and identifying the risk factors associated with the development of CAD.
High blood pressure is one of the most critical risk factors for CAD. High blood pressure is dangerous because it has no symptoms. Your doctor should check your blood pressure as a part of each exam or at least once every two years if your blood pressure is within normal limits. If you have chronically high blood pressure, your doctor may advise you of ways to monitor your blood pressure at home.
Blood test can help screen for heart-related conditions. These include:
- Cholesterol—Your total cholesterol should be checked every five years once you reach the age of 20. Your doctor may recommend more frequent testing if you have high LDL cholesterol or trigycerides, low HDL cholesterol, or other factors that increase your risk of heart disease.
- Blood glucose—Once you reach the age of 45, your blood glucose should be checked every three years. Blood glucose testing screens for diabetes.
Your body weight should be checked at each exam once you reach the age of 20. Your doctor will assess your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference to determine if you are at a healthy weight. Excess weight increases blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. All of these compound your risk of CAD.
Screening Tests for High Risk Populations
There are other tests that your doctor may recommend if you are at high risk of developing CAD. These include:
C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, is associated with CAD and may be a helpful screening test in high risk populations. Although, the correlation between CRP levels and the extent of CAD is low.
If your doctor suspects that you are at risk of developing CAD, you may have an EKG. This test records the electrical activity of your heart through electrodes attached to the skin. An EKG may be able to show changes in your heart's rhythm or damage to heart muscle. However, a normal EKG does not mean you are free of CAD, since most early changes are not seen on this test.
Your doctor may order chest x-rays to check your heart's size and to check your lungs for signs of lung congestion.
Also known as coronary artery calcium scoring, this noninvasive x-ray examination detects calcium levels in the coronary arteries, expressing the findings as a calcium score. Calcium build-up is a marker of CAD.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), the hardening of the arteries outside of the heart, is also a marker for increased cardiac risk. An ankle-brachial index measurement is done to screen for and diagnose PAD. Blood pressure is measured at your ankle and at your arm. If blood pressure is lower in your ankle, it indicates that an artery between your heart and your leg may be blocked. Atherosclerosis is a systemic disease, and its presence in one area of the body increases your risk for disease in other areas as well.
This condition is related to CAD, but research is inconclusive and the relationship is not clinically significant enough to recommend measurement of IMT as a screening tool.
- Reviewer: Michael J. Fucci, DO
- Review Date: 09/2013 -
- Update Date: 00/12/2014 -