Written on November 28, 2022 by Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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With every heartbeat, your heart pumps blood through your body, keeping you alive. On average, the human heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute, or approximately 103,680 times a day, more than two and a half billion times in an average lifespan . So it makes sense that you want to do everything you can to keep this vital, life-pumping machine ticking. Just like you check that your car has oil and gas so it doesn’t break down, you may wonder how to check if your heart is healthy.
Put simply, a healthy heart is doing its job—pumping blood throughout your body at a regular rhythm without having to pump against clogged blood vessels. Heart disease is what happens when your heart is unhealthy. Types of heart disease include:
Coronary artery disease is the most common kind of heart disease and causes most heart attacks and chest pain .
There are two categories of tests and screenings for heart health. First, screening tests are used in people without known heart disease or symptoms to identify potential risk factors and to prevent heart disease.
The second type of heart health tests are diagnostic tests used in people with known or suspected heart disease (for example, someone who has already had a heart attack) to monitor treatment and reduce symptoms.
Two of the most basic and most important screening tests should be done at least once a year when you visit your healthcare provider:
Regularly checking your blood pressure is an important screening because high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. Chronic untreated high blood pressure is considered the most influential risk factor for heart disease and death worldwide .
Excess weight and extra-large waist size are also significant risk factors for heart disease. Healthcare providers may measure around your waist (waist circumference) and your height to calculate your body mass index (BMI). Then, they use BMI as an indicator of being overweight or obese.
Healthcare providers combine measurements such as your blood pressure and your BMI with laboratory figures to get a more accurate sense of your risk for heart disease. Two commonly used laboratory tests used as part of screening for heart disease are:
These two tests can be collected with Everlywell’s at-home finger-prick collection technology. Everlywell’s Cholesterols and Lipids Test checks your total cholesterol, calculated LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Ask your healthcare provider how often you need to have your blood lipid levels tested. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even children and adolescents should have their cholesterol checked . Healthcare professionals can use your cholesterol levels to predict your risk for heart disease more accurately and decide whether you need to take medications to lower your cholesterol levels.
Whether or not you have diabetes, you may be familiar with another blood test looking at blood sugar called hemoglobin A1C (HbAIC). This test shows your average blood sugar (glucose) level over the past two to three months. People with high HbA1C levels are at higher risk for heart disease, regardless of whether they have diabetes or not . The American Diabetes Association recommends testing for prediabetes and risk for future diabetes for all people beginning at age 35 years . Talk with your healthcare prover about how often you should have your blood glucose level checked.
Like high blood pressure, you don’t always have high cholesterol or high blood sugar symptoms until it is too late or your heart health is already compromised. The only way to know whether you have high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or high blood pressure is to get them checked.
Some people worried about their risk of heart disease choose additional tests related to heart health. Everlywell adds another test, hsCRP, to its Heart Health Test. Chronic inflammation (indicated by hsCRP levels) is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease . Elevated hsCRP levels can independently predict the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease in the general population .
Neither of these tests is recommended as routine screening tests for healthy individuals with no known heart disease risk factors. They can be helpful, however, for both you and your health care providers to guide your heart disease treatment plan.
People have many reasons for wondering about their health. Everlywell customers use our at-home lab tests for looking at heart disease risk because they:
Knowing that you may have risk factors for heart disease may be strong motivation for taking better care of yourself and your heart. Research shows that an effective part of lowering your risk for heart disease is managing health behaviors and risk factors, like your diet quality, physical activity, smoking, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, total cholesterol, and blood glucose (diabetes)[9,10].
Extra motivation can come from knowing where you stand in terms of your risk. Even the most healthy of us may still have some risk factors. Keep in mind that even if you do have test results that are less than ideal, it is not a guarantee that you will develop a serious cardiovascular disease.
Instead, it means you’re in a position to begin positively changing your health. Talk about motivation! Heart health screening tests like those offered conveniently and affordably through Everlywell can be part of your plan to keep your heart pumping healthfully for years to come.