4 Heart Tests You May Not Need

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

Adapted from Reuters.com | By Frederik Joelving and Genevra Pittman from Reader's Digest Magazine | June 2012
4 Heart Tests You May Not Need© Hemera/Thinkstock

To spot signs of blockages, a doctor stresses the heart by putting you on a treadmill or stationary bike while doing an ECG and perhaps an echocardiogram. The test may not detect early disease (results read abnormal only if an artery is blocked 50 to 70 percent or more). Cost: $250 to $1,000.
Whom does it help? People with symptoms of blockage, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or arm, neck, or back pain triggered by exercise, as well as sedentary people who want to start exercising.

X-rays form a detailed picture of the heart. A coronary calcium scan reveals calcium deposits in heart arteries, indicating risk of heart disease. Patients with symptoms may also have dye injected to spot blockages. Cost: about $100 ($1,500 or more with dye).
Whom does it help? A coronary calcium score may determine treatment for people with a risk factor such as high cholesterol. (Diet and exercise may be enough for those with a low score; a high score may indicate a need for statins.) However, there have not been randomized trials showing that the test and resulting treatment lead to fewer heart disease deaths. Also, the dye scan may increase cancer risk slightly (due to radiation) and contribute to kidney and thyroid problems.

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