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How is heart disease diagnosed?

30 June 2015

If you suspect you may have heart disease, consult your doctor immediately.

Your doctor will take note of your medical history, family history and your risk factors. For example, if you're diabetic, this increases your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and coronary heart disease.

Your doctor will also conduct a physical exam. There might be signs of raised cholesterol (around the eyelids, over extensor tendons or a ring around the iris of the eye), the pulse can tell the doctor whether there is an arrhythmia, swelling of the ankles, a raised venous pressure and a displaced heart apex will suggest heart failure, the blood pressure measurement is crucial, testing the urine will indicate whether the patient is diabetic or has kidney disease.

The different heart disease tests

Symptoms of heart disease are not always obvious, so your doctor will suggest a number of tests before making a heart disease diagnosis. However, no single test can diagnose heart disease. There are a number of different ones, depending on what condition your doctor thinks you might have. These include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): Electrodes are stuck to the arms, legs and chest and the ECG machine records heart rhythm and electrical activity.
  • X-rays: Heart, lungs and chest X-rays can help to rule out other conditions.
  • Echocardiogram: This ultrasound scan looks at the structure, thickness and movement of heart valves and heart chambers as blood is pumped, giving a picture of how well the heart is working.
  • Cardiac enzyme blood test: These can help diagnose heart muscle damage.
  • Coronary angiography: Carried out under local anaesthetic, a coronary angiography or catheter test gives information about blood pressure inside the heart, how well the heart is working and whether coronary arteries are blocked.
  • Radionuclide tests: A small amount of radioactive isotope is injected into the blood. A special camera near the chest follows the radiation as it moves through the heart. This test shows how strongly the heart is pumping.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This uses magnets to give detailed images of your heart.

Your doctor will need to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. Chest pain and other symptoms that indicate heart disease can have other causes, including arthritis of the front of the rib cage, lung conditions, damage to bones and muscles, or inflammation of the tissues around the heart.

Heart disease treatment is easier with early detection, so talk to your doctor about any of your concerns.

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Clicks Clinics will help you prevent or manage heart disease with their wide range of screening tests. These include:

  • Blood Pressure (BP) Test
  • Cholesterol Testing and Consultation
  • Lipogram Blood Test (to determine different types of cholesterol)
  • Clicks Full Basic Screening (BP, Body Mass Index or BMI, meal guide and exercise plan)
  • Clicks Screening Measurements only (BP and BMI)
  • Clicks Comprehensive Screening (BP, BMI, Glucose and Cholesterol screening, plus meal and exercise plan)

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or visit Clicks Clinics online

For more info
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa

Read More: Heart Disease Super Section