Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to all diseases and conditions involving the heart and blood vessels. The main types of CVD in Australia are coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure/cardiomyopathy (1). One in six Australians are affected by cardiovascular disease, accounting for more than 4.2 million Australians (2). CVD prevalence increases with age, with 36% of Australians aged 55-64 reporting a long term CVD condition, increasing to 66% for Australians aged 75 and over. (2). However the good news is that the risk factors such as High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, weight and a sedentary lifestyle are almost all completely manageable.
Lets look at the tests for Heart conditions commonly used;
- Chest X-Ray
- Whether the heart is enlarged
- Whether there is congestion in the lungs
2. Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Whether you’ve had a heart attack
- If the left ventricle is thickened (enlarged heart muscle wall)
- If the heart rhythm is abnormal (noting any arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation)
3. Echocardiography (Echo)
- The images produced by the echo can show how thick the heart muscle is and how well the heart pumps. This is the most common test used to assess your heart’s ejection fraction
4. Exercise Stress Test
- Whether your heart responds normally to the stress of exercise.
- Whether the blood supply is reduced in the arteries that supply your heart.
- Can help determine the kind and level of exercise appropriate for you
5. Radionuclide ventriculography (MUGA)
- How well the heart muscle is supplied with blood
- How well the heart’s chambers are working
- Whether part of the heart has been damaged by heart attack
6. Cardiac catherization
- Blockages in the coronary arteries are visible on the x-rays.
- The parts of your heart that are fed by the blocked or narrowed arteries may be weakened or damaged from lack of blood.
- The test can show your heart’s structure (muscle, valves and chambers) and how well blood flows through your heart and major vessels
- MRI of the heart lets your doctor see if your heart is damaged from a heart attack, or if there is lack of blood flow to the heart muscle because of narrowed or blocked arteries
The current Gold Standard to determine a coronary occlusion (blockage) is an angiogram, which is usually only ordered after a patient fails a treadmill test or has severe angina, as angiograms are expensive and invasive. Treadmill tests can only register blood flow blockages of 70% or more so there are many people unknowingly walking around with early stage heart disease.