Once you reach the age of 40, you will find that your body cannot keep up with the lifestyle habits you used to have in your 30s. In fact, the 40s decade is one of the most dangerous decades of your life as your risk of several health conditions increases.
Your heart is the hardest working organ and in your 40s, it begins to show signs of wear and tear. This wear and tear can be minimized if you go for regular heart checkups.
(Note: This content is prepared under the guidance of Dr. Zainulabedin Hamdulay – Leading Cardiac Surgeon in Mumbai, India)
Importance of Heart Checkup
Research and evidence show that as people age, their risk of developing heart disease increases. This is true for both men and women. Since heart disease can be prevented or caught early to minimize its ill-effects, heart checkup is the way forward.
Age: As you age, your blood vessels also age. They tend to get less flexible, making it more difficult for blood to flow through them. Plaque or fatty deposits accumulate along the arterial walls and this adversely affects the flow of blood from the heart.
In addition, your poor exercise habits and unhealthy food intake also affect your heart and its health. As a result, you are at a greater risk of getting a heart attack.
Gender: For decades, doctors believed that it has been just men who were prone to heart disease. However, now it has emerged that just like in men, even in women’s heart disease is the leading cause of death.
Both men and women are at high risk of heart disease if they smoke, have elevated blood cholesterol levels and suffer from high blood pressure. These risk factors take an ominous turn once you cross the age of 40.
Health Issues: Certain pre-existing health conditions can be a risk factor to heart disease. It has been observed that diabetes is a major risk factor to heart disease, but the symptoms that women experience are different from men.Women may experience breathlessness or heartburn when they exert themselves physically while men may suffer from chest pain.
So, the moment you cross 40, it is important you have a regular heart check-up. It will help detect the risk factors early and allow you to make changes in your lifestyle habits so that you reduce your chances of heart disease.
Screening Tests for Optimal Heart Health
While there are many tests that can form a part of your heart health checkup, there are some screening tests that offer better and more comprehensive results. Some of the tests that you should be looking to have include the following:
Blood Pressure Check
When you get your blood pressure checked regularly, the doctor will know whether you have high or low blood pressure. This, in turn, allows the doctor to prescribe medication to bring your blood pressure in the normal range. High blood pressure increases your chances of a stroke or heart attack, but medication and lifestyle changes can control it.
Blood Cholesterol Test
Research shows that plaque buildup in the arteries begins during childhood and continues into adulthood. Since the 40s is the period when the effect of these fatty deposits will come to the forefront, it is important you get your blood cholesterol levels checked regularly.
High cholesterol level opens you up to atherosclerosis, which can result in a wide range of cardiovascular disease. A heart check-up will catch marginally high cholesterol levels early so you can alter your diet to reduce intake of saturated fats.
BMI or body mass index checks your weight. It should be proportionate to your height, gender and age. If you have a high BMI, you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, elevated blood pressure and several other complications.
People in the 40 age group are more susceptible to obesity as family and work obligations hardly leaving them time for physical activity. As a result, they pile on pounds that can be tough to shed.
Blood Sugar Test
High blood sugar levels make you more susceptible to developing Type 2 Diabetes and becoming insulin resistant. If your blood sugar levels are not brought under control, you risk developing heart disease or getting a stroke. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can damage your kidneys, as well.
Electrocardiogram (ECG) is for people who are at a high risk of heart disease. If you have symptoms of a heart disease, such as palpitations, arrhythmia, shortness of breath, fainting spells or chest pains, the doctor will recommend an ECG to figure out if there is a problem with your functioning or structure of your heart and its vessels. It should be part of your heart checkup if you fall into the high risk category.
Stress is part and parcel of modern life and is one of the main causes of heart disease. Stress causes your heart to work harder and constant stress can take a toll on the functioning of your heart.
Hence, your heart checkup should involve a stress test, which is in the form of a treadmill test. Here, you walk on a treadmill while a specialist monitors your heart activity through ECG. This is a non-invasive test to find out if your heart is being put through stress when you exert yourself.
C-reactive Protein Screening
This test evaluates the amount of C-reactive protein circulating in your blood. It gives the doctor an indication of your risk for heart disease. The test also allows the doctor to figure out whether you have an infection or inflammation, as the level of C-reactive protein increases in these circumstances.
These tests are important when you hit or cross the age of 40. While some tests can be performed monthly or annually, there are others that should be done every five years.
Your specialist will let you know which tests should be done regularly. By opting for these heart health tests, you can catch any risk factor or problem early on and then follow your doctor’s orders to ensure they do not turn into full-blown heart disease.