What to expect during a heart check up

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.

Thankfully your doctor can identify risk factors such as high blood pressure or being overweight. But what other tests are involved during a heart disease screening?

Learn more about free cardiovascular screening services at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

Many heart screening procedures like body weight, blood pressure, and body mass index are done by the doctor during your annual checkup. Others, like checking your cholesterol and glucose levels, require a simple blood test. Your health care provider will do the following six things during a heart screening:

1. Take Your Blood Pressure

You can’t tell you have high blood pressure without checking it because there are usually no physical symptoms. And because high blood pressure is a major indicator of heart disease, it’s important to have it checked regularly. If yours is on the higher side (over 120/80 mmHg), your doctor will recommend diet and lifestyle changes or medicine to lower it.

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2. Ask About Your Family History

If several people in your immediate family have early heart disease, there’s a greater chance you’ll have it too. Your doctor will ask detailed questions about your family history. The more you know about your immediate family’s heart health, the better equipped you’ll be to manage your own.

3. Check Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that builds up in your blood and comes from the foods you eat. You should have a blood test every four to five years, starting at age 20, to measure both “good” and “bad” cholesterol. The ideal total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or lower. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or medicine if your cholesterol levels are too high.

4. Check Your Blood Sugar Levels

Risk factors for diabetes and heart disease go hand in hand, so your doctor may order a blood glucose test — especially if you have other risk factors for heart disease. People with diabetes have a higher blood sugar level than normal. Left untreated, diabetes can increase your chances of developing heart disease.

5. Weigh You

Being overweight raises your risk of developing heart disease. Using your weight, height, and waist circumference measurements, your doctor can calculate your body mass index, which helps indicate whether you’re within a healthy weight range.

6. Ask About Your Lifestyle

To evaluate your risk of heart disease, your doctor will ask about your health habits. A lifestyle that includes regular exercise, good sleep habits, and a healthy diet decreases your risk of heart disease. Smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and a diet high in fat, sugar, and salt can contribute to your risk of heart disease.

The results of a heart disease screening will help your doctor determine if you should make lifestyle changes to lower your risk for developing a heart disease.

Regardless of your doctor’s findings, the good news is that you can lower your risk for heart disease. Learn more about free cardiovascular screening services at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.