With heart disease being the number one killer of both men and women, Lee Health cardiologist Dr. Erick Burton says it’s not uncommon for patients to come in worried about their heart health. “When people feel that they may have a heart problem, its very anxiety-provoking and it usually deserves some attention. In this day and age, we have a lot of sophisticated testing; a lot of it also is non-invasive.”
But before doing any tests, doctors will first evaluate the patient’s medical history. “Then really a history of what exactly the problem is, the duration, where its located, what provokes it, what relieves it, those types of things often times can be very helpful for us,” explained Dr. Burton.
Risk factors of heart disease can include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and inactivity. “Any kind of complaint, chest pressure, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, with activities is always kind of concerning,” he said.
To get a baseline, cardiologists may start with a non-invasive study called an electrocardiogram, an EKG for short. This shows 12 different views of the heart’s electrical activity. “If the EKG is abnormal then you need to further testing just to confirm that the heart is not involved,” Dr. Burton said.
Doctors may then decide to do an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, or a stress test which shows how well the heart operates during activity. Each test can give better insight to a heart problem and help doctors decide the best form of treatment.
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