4 Heart Tests You May Not Need

Before your next check up, learn which heart tests healthy people might not need.

4 Heart Tests You May Not NeedIllustration by Mark Matcho

Screening tests play an important role in diagnosing heart problems in people who have certain symptoms or heart disease risk factors. But some commonly prescribed tests probably don’t help people who are at low risk and who lack symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. What’s more, they may lead to false positive results, which can trigger more invasive tests. The government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises against routine screening for heart disease for people at low risk (risk factors include family history, older age, high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes, and smoking). Here, tests healthy people might second-guess.

1) ECG (EKG)
A readout of your heart’s electrical activity recorded by electrodes on the chest; costs about $50. An ECG (also called electrocardiogram) may help identify irregular heart rhythms, heart attacks, and other problems. No trials have looked at whether ECGs help detect the risk of disease in those without symptoms.
Whom does it help? For those with an irregular heart rate, unexplained fainting, or risk factors like a family history of heart disease, an ECG can be helpful, says cardiologist Sarah Samaan, MD, author of Best Practices for a Healthy Heart. The test is also used to screen athletes for risk of sudden death and for people with high blood pressure (to find signs of abnormal heart-muscle thickening).

2) ECHOCARDIOGRAM
A moving ultrasound of the heart, which can show how well it pumps blood and whether it has structural problems; costs between $200 and $500.
Whom does it help? An echo can help spot heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and murmurs, which are often caused by leaky or stiff valves. It can help people with high blood pressure because the test can find enlargement, weakness, or stiffness in the heart muscle. Some abnormal ECGs should prompt an echo, which can detect congenital and inheritable heart problems.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

3 thoughts on “4 Heart Tests You May Not Need

  1. I will tell you one thing that didn’t help my husband.  Both of us had a ultrasound check just a couple of months before his heart attack.  We were advised in the private company’s literature that this check could help detect atherosclerosis and overall heart health.  It gave my husband a clear bill of health.  Evidently, this also happened to a cousin of mine, who had a scan that showed everything was great and then dropped dead a few weeks later of a heart attack. 

    Personal injury lawyers, are you monitoring these incidents?

    JG

  2. Although some of the medical tests are unnecessary, some
    save lives.

     

    There are about 300,000 preventable deaths from sudden
    cardiac arrests each year in the United States.   One simple tool to reduce these fatalities is to employ the MTWA
    test.  Twelve international studies
    clearly indicate that Cambridge Heart’s Microvolt T-Wave Alternans test
    identifies individuals at high risk of sudden cardiac death. This test does not
    take long; it is non-invasive, CMS/Private Insurance covered, F.D.A. approved,
    and relatively inexpensive (about $200). 
    Unfortunately, for some reason this test is not being provided to hearth
    patients.   As a result, about 850
    people die daily from sudden cardiac death.

     

    In addition, to add insult to injury, 21% of the
    defibrillators that are implanted are unnecessary, according to a recent JAMA
    study.  Another study, this one
    conducted by Columbia University a few years ago, determined that 30% of the
    170,000 ICD’s were uncalled for.  Since
    each defibrillator costs about $65,000, and there were over 50,000
    unnecessarily installed, this amounts to a waste of over $3.2 billion.  And this does not include the additional
    cost to monitor these unwarranted implants. 
    Yet Cambridge Heart’s Microvolt T-Wave Alternans tests could have
    prevented this waste, since it can determine who benefits from an ICD. 

    In summary, because for some reason MTWA tests are not employed,

    a)    
    850 people die needlessly each day, and

    b)    
    about 25% of the implants are unnecessary. 

     
     

  3. Interesting that you state a stress test costs between $250 and $1,000.  I had a nuclear stress test recently.  The facility billed me $4,935.65 and the cardiologist billed another $750 to look at the results.  You might need to correct your estimate of the costs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram

@kristencarney

A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.

@sixthformpoet

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”

@NicCageMatch

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 
—Alcohol

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.

Fields marked with an * are required
Foods That Harm Foods That HealWant a Free eBook?
FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL offers important information about the role diet plays in the struggle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Answer the question below to receive your FREE digital eBook.

Someone in my household experiences the following conditions:

Send me a link to download FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL:
By clicking below, I agree to the Trusted Media Brands Privacy Policy