Not all heart disease patients have chest pain or trouble breathing. In fact, you may have heart disease and not know it. Heart screenings are the best way to determine your risk and catch symptoms of disease early.
At the Wake Forest Baptist Heart and Vascular Center, we provide standard heart screenings as well as innovative new practices for the early detection of heart disease.
Heart Screening: What to Expect
We recommend heart screenings for patients starting around 20 years of age. We begin with a comprehensive set of tests and evaluations to help us understand your current heart health, including:
- Tests to make sure your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose are within normal ranges
- Measurement of your waist circumference, body weight and body mass index (BMI)
- Examination of lifestyle factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, that impact your heart health
- A review of your family health history
If your screening indicates you are at low risk for heart disease, follow-up tests are scheduled a few years later. Some people may need to undergo more frequent heart screenings depending on factors such as:
- Your age
- Family history of heart disease
- Whether your initial screening showed any abnormal results
Advanced Heart Screenings
If you are at an elevated risk for heart disease, we may perform additional tests to learn more about your condition. Advanced heart screenings may include:
- Angiogram: X-ray test using dye and a special camera to look at blood flow in and around your heart
- Computed Tomography (CT) Heart Scan: X-ray pictures of your heart pieced together by a computer to produce 3-D images
- C-Reactive Protein: A blood test that can help determine levels of inflammation in your body
- CT Coronary Angiogram: A special heart scan that helps identify plaque deposits commonly found in women that other tests may not detect
- Coronary Calcium Scan: A special imaging test to locate and measure calcium deposits in the walls of your coronary arteries
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): Recording of electrical activity to show whether your heartbeat pace and rhythm are normal
- Echocardiogram: Test that uses sound waves to look at your heart muscle and valves and see how well they pump blood
- Exercise Stress Test: Evaluates your heart function while it is working hard and beating fast, such as walking or running on a treadmill
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Uses magnetic technology to look at the structure and function or your heart
- Myocardial Biopsy: We remove a small sample of heart tissue and examine it in a laboratory to look for disease or damage
- Radionuclide Ventriculography: Measures the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during each heartbeat
We also work with other specialists across the Wake Forest Baptist system to provide specialized heart screenings for patients with complex health histories:
- We consult with cardio-oncology experts to provide specialized heart screenings for patients whose cancer treatment may have contributed to a heart condition.
- We meet weekly with pediatric specialists from Brenner Children’s Hospital to help guide ongoing care for patients who have been treated for congenital heart disease.
Heart Screening Research
As an academic health care facility, we offer a depth of care that few hospitals can provide. Our physicians, along with Wake Forest School of Medicine research faculty and public health scientists, participate in national clinical trials studying the effects of heart disease. We incorporate findings from this research to help us provide comprehensive heart screening services:
- Coronary Calcium Scan: A noninvasive test that helps identify patients who have an intermediate risk for heart disease by locating calcium deposits on artery walls of the heart
- Computed Tomography (CT) Coronary Angiogram: A special heart scan that helps identify subtle and widespread plaque deposits commonly found in women that may not be found through other tests
- Measurement of C-Reactive Protein: A blood test that helps determine levels of inflammation in your body