Should I Start Seeing a Cardiologist at a Certain Age?
Find the truth about questions that pique your curiosity in our series, “The Short Answer.” Cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD, answers this one about genetics and heart disease.
A.: It’s certainly reasonable to have an annual physical examination from a primary care physician when you get into middle age. But I want to strongly warn people against undergoing routine cardiac testing unless they are experiencing symptoms such as chest pain. Otherwise, you could end up undergoing a lot of unnecessary testing leading to unnecessary procedures.
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The only heart-related tests that are appropriate for most people who are not experiencing symptoms are measurement of blood cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. These are important numbers to know.
But, for example, if we perform a treadmill stress test in an otherwise healthy person and the results are abnormal, it’s highly likely that the results are a false positive. A false positive test is when the results indicate a condition or finding that does not really exist.
Similarly, many people are asking about getting a heart scan to look for calcium. If you’re otherwise healthy, we don’t recommend it. It involves significant radiation and I don’t think it’s in the best interests of most people to have this test.
Cultivating good health habits is much better approach than undergoing routine testing to look for heart conditions that may or may not exist.
— Cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD, Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic