The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women
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Tests That Can Help Protect Your Heart Health
Ask your doctor to give you these tests. Each one will give you valuable information about your heart disease risk.
What: A blood test that measures total cholesterol, HDL or "good" cholesterol, LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and triglycerides, another form of fat in the blood. The test is given after a 9- to 12-hour fast.
Why: To find out if you have any of the following: high blood cholesterol (high total and LDL cholesterol), low HDL cholesterol, or high triglyceride levels. All affect your risk for heart disease.
When: All healthy adults should have their blood cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years. Depending on the results, your doctor may want to repeat the test more frequently.
What: A simple, painless test using an inflatable cuff on the arm.
Why: To find out if you have high blood pressure (also called hypertension) or prehypertension. Both are risk factors for heart disease.
When: At least every 2 years, or more often if you have high blood pressure or prehypertension.
Fasting Plasma Glucose
What: The preferred test for diagnosing diabetes. After you have fasted overnight, you will get a blood test the following morning.
Why: To find out if you have diabetes or are likely to develop the disease. Fasting plasma glucose levels of more than 126 mg/dL on two tests on different days mean that you have diabetes. Levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL mean you have an increased risk for diabetes and may have prediabetes. Diabetes is an important risk factor for heart disease and other medical disorders.
When: At least every 3 years, beginning at age 45. If you have risk factors for diabetes, you should be tested at a younger age and more often.
Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist Circumference
What: BMI is a measure of your weight in relation to your height. Waist circumference is a measure of the fat around your middle.
Why: To find out whether your body type raises your risk of heart disease. A BMI of 25 or higher means you are overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher means you are obese. Both over weight and obesity are risk factors for heart disease. For women, a waist measurement of more than 35 inches increases the risk of heart disease and other serious health conditions.
When: Every 2 years, or more often if your doctor recommends it.
There also are several tests that can determine whether you already have heart disease. Ask your doctor whether you need a stress test, an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), or another diagnostic test. (See "Screening Tests".)
WHAT'S YOUR RISK?
Here is a quick quiz to find out your risk of a heart attack.
If you checked any of the "yes" boxes, you're at an increased risk of having a heart attack. If you checked "don't know" for any questions, ask your doctor for help in answering them. Read on to learn what you can do to lower your risk.
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Last Updated: February 29, 2012