My father had his first heart attack somewhere in his early 40’s. He ignored it, so the damage was not discovered until many years later, when he needed his first balloon angioplasty. He died at age 64 of congestive heart failure. His father dropped over dead of a massive coronary at age 65. His mother died of a heart attack at age 76, and there are others. Also, in my family, there is a very strong history of hypertension, and high cholesterol. Because I have hypertension, and had been worried and stressed about it, and life in general lately, my doctor insisted that I have a cardiac stress test, mostly because of my very scary family history.
My sister came with me to my stress test as moral support. She is a bit overweight, and while I have my cholesterol well under control, her’s is high. In talking to the technician that did my cardiac echo, and the treadmill stress test, it came to light that my sister and I have the same family history risk! This was surprisingly illuminating to us both. Since she does not have hypertension, we both figured that I was the ticking time bomb. It turns out that she is ticking just as loudly. We may have different issues, but equal risk. I am not overweight and have good cholesterol, but I smoke and have hypertension, controlled though it may be. She has her weigh and cholesterol to worry about, and I am a lot more active. The technician told her that she needs a cardiac stress test just as badly as I did.
Of course, this was the very last thing that my sister wanted to hear, and now she has taken over the job of fretting over heart disease, as my echo and stress test looked great. I need to quit smoking, and hope to buy my last pack today. She needs to lose weight, exercise, and get her cholesterol under control. A strong family history of heart disease is one of the many indications for having a cardiac stress test, all other factors excluded. She is balking at the idea due to the cost, and probably a good bit of fear, but I hope that she resolves to get it done soon.
Who needs a cardiac stress test? As already mentioned, a family history of heart disease is one big factor. Also, people who are overweight, have high cholesterol, hypertension, people who have smoked, and people with diabetes need to have a cardiac stress test. Of course, anyone with chest pain, or discomfort, dizziness, light headedness, and shortness of breath needs a stress test too, and a trip to the ER if they are experiencing these symptoms at any time.
A cardiac stress test with an echo of the heart can cost $700 or more, and if it is being done for family history alone, it may not be covered by your insurance. I think that this is awful, as prevention is surely better then suffering a heart attack, or coming close. However, how much money do we all spend on new tech gadgets, or high fat mocha lattes a year, without batting an eye. If you have a strong family history of heart disease, talk to your doctor about having a family history cardiac stress test, then start saving to have it done. You may be saving more than just money. You may be saving your life.
Heart Stress Tests