Heart & vascular screenings: What’s the difference?

Heart & vascular screenings: What’s the difference?

From diet to exercise, there are many ways we can support our hearts.

However, when it comes to catching problems early, there’s no better resource than heart and vascular screenings.

The difference, explained

You may be asking yourself, “Aren’t heart and vascular screenings the same thing?”

While they are similar, they’re also very different, says Alexa Reynolds, Sanford Health lead exercise physiologist at the Center for Screening in Fargo, North Dakota.

She says a heart screening looks at the risk for coronary heart disease.

Schedule a screening:

“We would be looking at their blood pressure. We run a cholesterol check, we check their height and weight, and do an EKG (electrocardiogram) of their heart to look at rate and rhythm,” she says.

“Then, we use a tool called a Framingham score to assess their 10-year risk for developing heart disease. If our patients are found to be at a high risk, that means 6% or higher for the next 10 years, then the patient does a CT scan, which looks at the calcium build up.”

Alexa explains that a vascular screening is essentially an ultrasound of a patient’s arteries in their neck, abdominal aorta and legs.

“We have vascular techs looking for any risk of stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and also varicose veins and reflux,” she says.

Why they’re important

Reynolds says they’re different screenings, but equally important.

“Your risk of heart attack and stroke kind of go hand in hand. In some cases, if you have calcium buildup in the heart, you most likely have plaque somewhere else in your body as well,” says Alexa.

She says that as we grow older, calcium naturally builds in our arteries. This makes yearly screenings even more important.

Preventing problems in the first place

Alexa says yearly screenings are the best way to catch problems early. She adds that prevention is the best medicine.

“Exercise is like your magic pill. It’s going to help with your blood pressure and cholesterol,” she says.

Along with exercise, Alexa says the earlier you implement a heart-healthy diet, the better.

Are screenings important for older adults?

Screenings help keep older adults healthy, too. While some conditions decrease in their risk as people age, that is not the case with heart and vascular disease. As people get older, their risk of heart and vascular disease continues to increase.

The Society recommends continued preventative measures for heart and vascular issues as residents age.

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