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14 Types of Heart Tests and What They Mean

Medically reviewed by Dr Rohan J Harsoda – MBBS, DNB(General Surgery)
Heart tests are like snapshots of your heart’s health. They’re medical checks and procedures that help doctors figure out how your heart is doing. These tests are crucial for diagnosing heart issues, keeping tabs on your heart’s health, and deciding on the right treatments. So, let’s break it down – there are lots of reasons you might need a heart test. It could be because you’re having chest pain, feeling dizzy, or experiencing shortness of breath. Doctors might also recommend them if you have risk factors for heart disease, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or you smoke.
Why are heart tests important? Well, they catch potential problems early, help manage existing heart conditions, and provide accurate info for medical decisions. There’s a whole bunch of heart tests out there, each with its own purpose. Let’s dive into the 14 main types:

1. Blood Tests

Blood tests can tell a lot about your heart. They check stuff like cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and blood sugar, which can be signs of heart disease. Some common ones include:

Cardiac Troponin Test: This one helps diagnose heart attacks by detecting a protein called troponin that the heart releases into the bloodstream when it’s damaged.

Lipid Profile: Measures cholesterol levels, specifically “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins), which can lead to heart disease.

Thyroid Function Tests: Checks your thyroid gland’s activity. Thyroid issues can affect your heartbeat.

Complete Blood Count: Looks at different types of blood cells in your system. Abnormal counts can mimic heart issues.

B-type Natriuretic Peptide (BNP): Measures a protein called BNP, which increases when the heart has to work harder, often indicating heart failure.

2. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

This test checks your heart’s electrical activity using pads on your chest. It’s painless and tells the doc if your heart is beating as it should. It’s handy for spotting irregular heartbeats, blocked arteries, damage, heart failure, or heart attacks.

3. Exercise Stress Test

Ever wonder how well your heart handles exercise? This test helps your doc find out. As you work out, your heart pumps more blood, and if there’s an issue with the blood supply in your coronary arteries, this test will reveal it. It also guides your healthcare team on what kind of exercise is right for you.

4. Echocardiogram (Ultrasound)

Imagine it as a sonogram for your heart. It uses sound waves to create images of your heart’s structure and function. Docs check your heart’s walls, movement, pumping strength, valves, and even potential issues like regurgitation or stenosis.

5. Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE)

TEE is like an upgraded echocardiogram. It uses ultrasound but via a tube that goes down your throat. This way, it gets super clear images of your heart’s upper chambers and valves.

6. Nuclear Cardiac Stress Test (Myocardial Perfusion Imaging - MPI)

This test uses a smidge of radioactive stuff to show how blood flows through your heart. It’s great for checking artery narrowing, damage from heart attacks, the effectiveness of stents or bypass surgery, and even if you need a coronary angiogram. You can be at rest during this test.

7. Coronary Angiogram (Cardiac Catheterization)

This one’s like an X-ray for your heart. It uses a special dye to show how blood flows in your coronary arteries – those are the vessels that supply blood to your heart. It helps spot artery narrowing and diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD).

8. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A cardiac MRI uses magnets and radio waves to create detailed pictures of your heart and arteries. This test is for more complex heart conditions and gives a closer look at blood vessels and heart function.

9. Coronary Computed Tomography Angiogram (CCTA)

Think of this as a 3D heart image created from X-rays. It’s useful when other tests don’t give enough info about your heart’s health. CCTA shows heart structure, blood flow, plaque buildup, and your risk for a heart attack.

10. Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) Test

This test, also known as a heart scan, uses CT scans to spot calcium deposits in your coronary arteries. The more calcium, the higher your risk of heart disease. It helps with decisions like starting medication or therapy.

11. Holter Monitor

This nifty device is like a portable ECG machine. It records your heart’s activity for 24 to 48 hours or even longer. It’s used when heart symptoms come and go, giving doctors a good look at irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias.

12. Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray provides a snapshot of your heart, lungs, and chest bones. While it doesn’t show the heart’s inside structures, it helps locate, size, and shape the heart and lungs.

13. Nuclear Imaging Tests

These tests use radioactive tracers to create images of the heart. There are three types:

PET Scan: It helps diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart damage after an attack.

MUGA Scan: Measures ejection fraction, which shows how well your heart pumps blood.

SPECT Scan: Shows blood flow and heart function at rest and during exercise, helpful for detecting CAD or heart attack signs.

14. Tilt-Table Test

For those who often feel faint or lightheaded, this test measures how your blood pressure and heart rate react to changes in body position. It helps identify the cause of those sensations.

Final Thoughts​

When it comes to your heart, there’s no time to waste. If you have symptoms of a heart condition, don’t wait. Seek medical help promptly. The first step is seeing a doctor who can give the right tests and address any issues.

But that’s not all you can do. Stay proactive with the Health Locker App. It helps you keep track of your heart test results, so you’re always in the know about your heart health.

Your heart’s well-being is top priority. Take charge of it today for a healthier future. Get started with the Health-e App now.

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Jigar Patel is the Founder of Health-e, a HealthTech app that simplifies health records management along with providing personalized and preventative healthcare solutions. Although he has 20+ years of operations and management experience in the EPC domain, Jigar’s true passion lies in making healthcare simpler, faster and more accessible for doctors and patients alike. He strongly believes that people need to be empowered to participate in their own healthcare and is constantly thinking of ways to build this into his app. He loves to keep things simple be it in life, product design, his work or the content he develops. Being married for 10 years and having 2 kids have taught him that perspective matters, so you can always count on him to share new perspectives on various topics.