In diagnosing heart disease, a doctor will first ask you for a description of symptoms and your medical history. Your physical condition also will be assessed through a standard medical exam. Listening to the heart for swishing or whooshing sounds, collectively known as heart murmurs, may provide important clues about heart trouble. If heart disease is suspected, further tests are done to find out what is actually happening inside the heart.
An electrocardiogram, or ECG, is usually the first test to be performed. By recording electrical activity within the heart, the ECG quickly reveals any electrical abnormalities that may be a source of trouble or may indicate that the heart muscle has been or is being injured by ischemia (lack of oxygen-rich blood).
Further details can be gathered by taking images of the heart using X-rays, a variety of of other scans using CT, MRI or nuclear technology, or via angiography, a special technique that allows for detailed imaging of blood vessels. Echocardiograms (ultrasound evaluations of the heart) can also determine how well the heart and valves are working.
Other tests may include stress testing, with or without additional imaging of the heart, and sophisticated testing for arrhythmias (such as electrophysiology testing or EP testing).
What Are the Treatments for Heart Disease?
Medical care is essential once heart disease is diagnosed. The goals of treatment are stabilizing the condition, controlling symptoms over the long term, and providing a cure when possible.
Stress reduction, diet, and lifestyle changes are key in managing heart disease, but the mainstays of conventional care are drugs and surgery.