If you’re concerned about your risk factors and especially if you have noticed any warning signs for heart attack or stroke symptoms, seek help immediately, as these are medical emergencies requiring immediate attention.
Several tests may be required to determine your risk of heart disease. These tests include the following:
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiography (EKG or ECG)
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (cMRI)
- Stress tests
- Computed tomographic angiography (CTA scan)
- Ankle-brachial index test (ABI)
- Cardiac catheterization (angiography)
Tests don't always spot all forms of heart disease
Although all individuals are susceptible to heart disease, how they get it and the best way to treat it may be different. Researchers are only beginning to understand some of these differences. In the Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE) study, for example, researchers found that a traditional diagnostic test for heart disease, an angiogram, may not identify a condition that is more common in women* (assigned female at birth), called microvascular disease (dysfunction of the tiny blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood).
Because microvascular disease is an emerging area of research, there’s not yet a strong consensus on how it should be best diagnosed. Broadly speaking, your cardiologist may diagnose you with microvascular disease if you have the following:
- Chest pain (also known as angina) during routine activities.
- Known risk factors for heart disease include diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity, smoking, a family history of heart disease, etc.
An angiogram may not show blockages in major blood vessels of the heart. Still, you may benefit from microvascular testing, research which is ongoing and is expected to provide helpful information on the best ways to diagnose and treat it.
Research on coronary microvascular disease is ongoing and is expected to provide helpful information on the best ways to diagnose and treat it.
*The term “women” in the context of “women’s cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) who have a female biological reproductive system, which includes a vagina, uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, accessory glands, and external genital organs.
*The term “men” in the context of “cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned male at birth (AMAB) who have a male biological reproductive system, which includes a penis, scrotum, testes, epididymis, vas deferens, prostate, and seminal vesicles.
Jan Brown experienced heart attack symptoms and was rushed to the hospital. Her interventional cardiologist gave her an angioplasty, opening her clogged artery with a tiny balloon and implanted a drug-eluting stent.