Preventive heart screening is a useful way to detect hidden heart disease risks. If you're concerned about your heart's health, speak to a specialist.
"The simplest screening is a clinical examination and the taking of a patient's medical history," says Dr Paul Chiam, cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, “From there we can assess the number of risk factors the patient has, and create a general risk profile for that patient."
Once that is done, the next simplest test in the office is a bedside ECG, or an electrocardiogram.
Dr Chiam explains: "The ECG takes an electrical picture of the heart, and from this we can see many things – we can assess the heart rhythm, we can assess the electrical stability of the heart, and in some patients we may even be able to see underlying heart artery blockages from previous heart attacks."
For patients who have chest discomfort but are unsure of whether the pain is due to heart blockages in the arteries, a treadmill stress test can be performed. A treadmill stress test is similar to the ECG, except that the patient runs on the treadmill to give stress to the heart, to make it beat harder and pump faster. This test will give the doctor an indication of any underlying blockage that may not be detectable on the resting ECG.
Another test that is useful to perform is a heart ultrasound, or an echocardiogram.
"This is an ultrasound that looks at how the heart functions," Dr Chiam says. "We can look at how strong the heart pump is, and see if there's anything abnormal about the heart muscle. We can also assess the heart valves. There are 4 valves in the heart, and only with the ultrasound can we really assess these valves in detail."
Dr Chiam adds: "We also do a general assessment for the patient, to see if he has any pre-existing diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol. We try our best to manage those conditions, bring the patient’s risk profile into assessment, and control some of those risk factors."
To arrange for a heart screening, make an appointment with a specialist.
Video contributed by Dr Paul Chiam, cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital