Cardiovascular disease


Diagnosis of cardiovascular disease

Heart disease is often only diagnosed after you have a heart attack or begin showing symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend one or more tests to determine whether you have heart disease.

Standard diagnostic procedures and tests include:

  • Physical examination and history: Your doctor will discuss any symptoms you have, look for possible signs of heart disease or heart failure (such as arrhythmia, cyanosis, or swelling in your legs), and discuss your family history and lifestyle factors like smoking.
  • Blood tests: If you have had a heart attack, there will be elevated amounts of specific proteins in your blood that can be detected through a blood test. Blood tests can also check for the presence of other conditions.
  • ECG (electrocardiogram): This is a method of measuring your heart’s electrical signals over time using electrodes. It can identify abnormal heartbeats and other irregularities.
  • Echocardiogram (“Echo”): an ultrasound of your chest.
  • Stress test: You will be asked to engage in exercise while your heart is being monitored, so your doctor can measure how your heart responds to stress.
  • Cardiac catheterization: Your doctor will insert a small tube through one of the arteries in your leg or arm, and thread it through to your heart in order to inject a contrast dye. Your doctor can use this to measure blood flow through major veins and arteries around your heart.
  • Imaging scans such as MRIs, CT scans, and chest X-rays: These provide an accurate picture of your heart and the surrounding tissues.

Treatment

Treatment for cardiovascular conditions varies depending on the cause of your symptoms and their severity. 

Your doctor may also prescribe medications to lower your blood pressure or increase blood flow, depending on what is causing your cardiovascular condition.

Infections of the heart muscle can be treated with antibiotics or other medications. Congenital disabilities of the heart may be monitored as you age, or require surgical treatment.

Our network of hospitals performs these heart procedures:

  • Coronary artery bypass surgery
  • Cardiac valve replacements and repairs
  • Transcatheter aortic and mitral valve replacements (TAVR and TMVR)
  • Aortic disease evaluations and procedures (thoracic aortic aneurysm, abdominal aortic aneurysm, ascending aortic aneurysms)
  • DaVinci robotic minimally invasive valve replacement, repairs, and ablations
  • Cardiac ablation for atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, and other supraventricular arrhythmias
  • Pacemaker and defibrillator implants for irregular or life-threatening heart rhythms
  • Carotid artery stenosis treatments with stents or surgery
  • Advanced heart disease evaluations, diagnosis, treatment planning, and interventions

When to see a doctor for heart disease symptoms

If you notice possible symptoms of cardiovascular disease, you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible. While many conditions besides heart disease can cause similar symptoms, if you do have cardiovascular disease, the quicker you receive treatment, the better.

If you think you or someone close to you is experiencing a heart attack, seek emergency care immediately by calling 911. Quickly getting to treatment is very important.

Signs of a possible heart attack include:

  • Nausea
  • Feeling of unease or impending doom
  • Pain in the chest, back, or upper abdomen
  • Pain in the throat, jaw, or radiating into the shoulder or arm (typically the left arm)
  • Dizziness, fainting, or sudden weakness
  • Shortness of breath

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.