Question: What tests should I be asking my doctor about for heart disease? My father died at 59 from a heart attack (he was a heavy drinker and smoker). I am 49.
Dr. Hibberd's answer:
Testing for asymptomatic heart disease is not something doctors now do. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends doctors emphasize preventive strategies and not engage in "fishing expeditions" to see if there is hidden heart disease in their patients.
Instead, doctors work to reduce known risks — such as high blood pressure, diabetes, inactivity, and high cholesterol — avoid doing tests until they are warranted because of a patient's symptoms.
Stress tests, EKGs, and other screenings are usually not helpful to patients, although some with a family history of heart disease or other risk factors may warrant such tests in some cases.
Be sure to ask your doctor to review all your risks for premature heart disease, and plan out a preventive strategy. Be sure your LDL is low and HDL is high. Have your triglycerides checked. Be sure to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range, get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking if you use tobacco, and drink alcohol only in moderation.
You should also ask your doctor if it would you be wise to start taking a baby aspirin once a day and supplemental fish oil.
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