Monitoring your heart health: How to help prevent cardiovascular disease

8 March 2023

We all know that it’s important to keep your heart healthy— and 80% of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is preventable. Heart disease risk factors vary from person to person, so even if you’re otherwise healthy, you should consider screening for heart disease.

Your doctor will measure things like your blood pressure and body weight at routine health screenings. However, there are even more options for cardiovascular disease (CVD) testing—like measuring your cholesterol and blood glucose. Here’s a look at the most common heart health tests, so you’re prepared to discuss what’s best for you with your healthcare provider.

Knowing your numbers when it comes to blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose, along with other lab results and clinical parameters, is critical to taking charge of your heart health. Evaluating all of these results together, your doctor can make an assessment of your risk for cardiovascular disease and provide advice and treatments to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risks.

– Renee M. Sullivan, MD, FACC

Test your blood pressure

Routinely checked by your healthcare provider, your blood pressure has a strong link to CVD. In fact, it may have the strongest. Tens of millions of Americans have high blood pressure (hypertension), which means they may be at risk for CVD or stroke.

By regularly monitoring your blood pressure, you can get a good picture of your heart health—and you don’t have to visit your healthcare provider to do it. Community health centers, some drug stores and other types of diagnostic (testing) facilities offer free or affordable ways to test your blood pressure.

Test your cholesterol

Unhealthy cholesterol levels often don’t come with symptoms, so many people don’t know when their levels are too high. If you have high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol, you may be at risk for CVD. That’s because the LDL cholesterol may build up on the walls of your blood vessels, which can lead to problems associated with CVD.

Cholesterol tests are usually referred to as panels because they are actually a collection of tests in one convenient package. Using a cholesterol and lipid panel, you can measure:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL or “bad” cholesterol
  • Very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol
  • HDL or “good” cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

Guidelines recommend screening cholesterol with a lipid panel every 4-6 years for average risk adults over the age of 20 and more frequently for high risk patients.

Children, teens, and young adults should be tested once between the ages of 9 and 11 and then again between the ages of 17 and 21. By monitoring the above values, you can take a great first step towards a healthy heart and healthy life.

Note: Before taking a cholesterol test, you may need to fast (avoid eating or drinking) for 12-24 hours.

Test for diabetes and your blood glucose

Diabetes can put you at increased risk for CVD. More than 133 million Americans are living with diabetes or prediabetes. Because diabetes is connected with both your heart and how your body handles glucose (blood sugar), it is also connected to a slew of health problems called cardiometabolic diseases.

You can learn more about your diabetes risk by measuring your blood glucose or by measuring your hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)—your blood sugar average over about 3 months—to give you and your healthcare provider a better idea of your risk for diabetes as well as CVD. The American Heart Association recommends regular blood glucose tests for adults over 40. Speak with your healthcare provider today or order a blood glucose test to get the conversation started.

Testing and prevention—a powerful combo

Tests and screenings are important ways to learn your risk for CVD. By combining them with a healthy lifestyle, you can help lower your risk of CVD and heart attack.

A healthy lifestyle consists of:

  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking or using other tobacco products
  • Limiting alcohol use

Whether you have a family history of CVD or not, heart health means knowing and working to lower your risks—many of which have little or nothing to do with genetics. If you’re ready to get started monitoring your heart health, talk to your healthcare provider or order from Labcorp OnDemand. Labcorp OnDemand offers a suite of heart health tests. Discover how you can improve your health with simple, everyday choices and learn more about diagnostic screenings and tests that may be right for you and your health journey.

Learn More About Screening