3 Common Tests to Protect Your Heart Health

Apr 14, 2023
3 Common Tests to Protect Your Heart Health
Toxic relationships, tight deadlines, and daily traffic can stress you out, and that stress can do a number on your heart. Take a few moments to learn how constant stress affects your ticker in honor of National Stress Awareness Month.

April is National Stress Awareness Month, the perfect time to assess your life and identify the triggers that make you anxious, worried, and constantly on edge. Those situations and relationships not only ruin your day; they wreck your heart health.

But you can do a lot to ratchet down the daily pressure and save your ticker — and we can help.

Dr. Asif Aziz, our board-certified internist at Prestige Primary Care, specializes in preventive health care and loves helping our patients throughout the greater Dallas, Texas, area take charge of their health before problems take hold. Here, he explains the dangers of chronic stress, how it affects your heart, and the three main tests he uses to monitor its strength.

How stress affects your heart

While you might associate stress with sweaty palms and an upset stomach, the truth is that it can lead to serious heart problems if left unchecked. What stresses you out? Your job? Your relationships? Your finances? Those are some of the most common sources, but stress can even arise from “good” situations, like watching your favorite team compete, reading a thriller, or speaking in public. Good or bad, stress triggers a barrage of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms, and your heart is in the direct line of fire.

For example, a recent study showed that women who had been through multiple divorces had a similar increase in heart attack risk as smokers or those with diabetes. Men who had experienced multiple divorces also experienced a higher heart attack risk, and the negative impact of relationship stress on health can persist for decades after a divorce.

In addition to relationship stress, work-related stress can also have a detrimental effect on heart health. Those who worry more about losing their job are nearly 20% more likely to develop heart disease. 

Here’s the science behind stress and your heart. When you experience stress, you produce the hormone cortisol, and prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels increases your blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure — all common risk factors for heart disease. 

Not only that, but stress also causes changes in your body that promote the buildup of plaque deposits in your arteries, leading to poor blood flow and a higher risk of a heart attack. 

How’s your heart?

If all this talk about stress and heart health have you wondering how your ticker is doing, you’re in luck. Dr. Aziz and our team are here to help. We use three main tests to evaluate your heart health.

1. Blood tests

A simple blood test can tell Dr. Aziz whether you’re at risk for heart and blood vessel disease. In our onsite lab, we draw a small sample of blood from your arm and analyze it to check for: 

  • Total cholesterol
  • Triglycerides
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL), “good” cholesterol
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), “bad” cholesterol
  • Complete blood count to check your red and white blood cell numbers

When the results are ready, Dr. Aziz has valuable information regarding your heart health and risk for serious cardiac events and can get you started on lifestyle changes or treatments to reverse the problem.

2. Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram uses ultrasound technology to visually represent your heart's movement, allowing Dr. Aziz to capture images of the various valves and chambers in your heart. It also lets him assess your heart's pumping action and any potential issues that may be present. 

Using Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler techniques can provide further insight into the blood flow across your heart's valves. One of the most significant advantages of echocardiography is that it doesn’t expose you to radiation. It's a safe and noninvasive way to gather invaluable information about the health of your heart.

3. Electrocardiogram (EKG)

An electrocardiogram gives Dr. Aziz essential insights into your heart health without causing any discomfort. By attaching temporary electrodes to your chest and limbs, this noninvasive test measures your heart's electrical activity and creates a wave pattern we can analyze. Whether you're lying down or exercising during the test, the computerized translation of your heart's activity can help diagnose any underlying issues affecting your heartbeat. 

While an echocardiogram offers a dynamic visual of your heart's structure and function, an EKG captures the electrical activity within your heart and represents it through intricate diagnostic graphs. 

If you live under constant stress, you may have heart problems and not even know it. Find out if your heart’s in trouble — call or click to book an appointment at Prestige Primary Care for a heart test, so you can take steps to protect your heart.