Blocked arteries can cause serious problems if they prevent blood from reaching vital parts of the body such as the heart or brain. However, the symptoms of blocked arteries aren’t always obvious until they cause a life-threatening issue such as a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes the only way to know if your arteries are clogged is to undergo a screening test such as a carotid Doppler ultrasound, which can check for blockages that might put you at risk of a stroke.
Why Do Arteries Get Clogged?
Clogged arteries occur because of a condition known as atherosclerosis, which happens when fatty material from the blood sticks to the inside of the arteries. Over time, enough of this material can build up that it starts to affect the flow of blood. The effects of this can depend on the location of the blockage. Clogged arteries can be particularly dangerous when they affect blood supplying the heart or brain as these organs need continuous supplies of oxygen to keep functioning properly.
Signs of Clogged Arteries
Clogged arteries don’t always cause any obvious symptoms so the problem is often missed unless it causes a medical emergency such as a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes there can be warning signs that an artery is blocked before it causes a serious event. Angina occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel supplying the heart. It can cause symptoms such as chest pain, breathlessness, heart palpitations and sweating, which may be triggered by physical activity. Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes can occur when there is a blockage affecting the brain. The symptoms can include temporary weakness on one side of your body, loss of vision in one eye, or slurred speech. Angina can be a sign that you are at risk of a heart attack while a TIA is a warning that you are at risk of a major stroke, so it is vital to take these symptoms seriously and see a doctor.
Tests for Clogged Arteries
Cardiac screening can reveal whether you are at risk of clogged arteries by testing for issues such as high cholesterol that can increase the chances of fatty deposits accumulating in your blood vessels. If you are at high risk, you’re experiencing issues such as angina, or you’ve already had a stroke or heart attack, then there are some tests that can look inside your arteries to check for blockages. At the Cardiac Screen clinic, we can use ultrasounds to look for signs of blockages. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of your heart that can help us to assess the risk of heart disease while a carotid Doppler ultrasound allows us to measure the flow of blood through the arteries that supply your brain. The carotid Doppler scan is used to evaluate the risk of a stroke. If any issues are detected during these tests, treatment may help to improve the blood flow through your clogged arteries and reduce the risks.
Sports screening can be a good idea for athletes of all ages and skill levels, from young amateurs to experienced professionals. Even if you feel fit and healthy, there could be underlying issues that could be affecting your performance or putting you at risk.
The Purpose of Sports Screening
Sports screening is preventative so it is for people who are healthy and don’t have any noticeable symptoms. The aims of screening are to detect:
- Issues that could be reducing your performance, such as nutritional deficiencies
- Risk factors that could affect your future performance or wellbeing without the correct management, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
- Health conditions that could be triggered by exercises, such as heart arrhythmia or cardiomyopathy that may need to be treated to keep you safe
The results of sports screening can help you to train more effectively, improve your performance, and ensure that you take the action that is needed to address any risks or underlying health problems.
When to Arrange Sports Screening
Sports screening can be arranged at any time that suits you. It could be a good idea to visit Cardiac Screen for sports screening if you are:
- About to take up a new sport
- Planning to make significant changes to your training
- Preparing for a major challenge or event
- Signing up for an event that requires screening
- A young athlete who is planning a career in sport
- Over 35, as the risk of heart disease and other health problems increases as we get older
- An older athlete who wants to keep exercising safely
- An athlete with a family history of heart disease which could place you at higher risk
If you want to boost your performance and keep yourself healthy while you exercise then you can arrange sports screening at the Cardiac Screen clinic.
What Are the Different Types of Cardiac Tests?
Cardiac screening can include a range of different tests to look at different aspects of your heart health.
- Monitors the electrical activity in your heart that controls its beating
- Sensors are attached to your skin while you lie down and relax
- Produces a line chart showing changes in electrical activity as your heartbeats
- Used to diagnose conditions such as heart arrhythmias that cause abnormal heartbeats
- Can also detect coronary heart disease and help assess the risk of a heart attack
- Painless, non-invasive and completely safe cardiac test
- Usually completed in just a few minutes
Exercise ECG Tests
- Uses similar equipment to the resting ECG to monitor electrical activity in your heart
- Performed while you are exercising on a treadmill
- Can reveal issues that only cause symptoms when you are physically active
- May be performed as part of sports screening or if you have symptoms that are triggered by exercise
- Portable device that monitors your cardiac health as you go about your usual routine
- Usually worn for 24-48 hours
- Portable ECG can monitor electrical activity in your heart
- Portable blood pressure monitor can also be used to detect cardiovascular problems
- Can detect issues that only occur some of the time, such as unpredictable arrhythmias
- Ultrasound scan of your heart
- The ultrasound probe will be moved across your chest
- Produces moving pictures of your heart in real-time
- Reveals the structure of your heart, which can reveal any abnormalities such as thickening of the heart muscle
- Shows your heart beating, which can reveal functional issues such as problems with the movements of the heart valves
- Can be used to assess the damage after a heart attack
- Painless, non-invasive and completely safe cardiac test
Other types of tests may also be performed to learn more about your cardiovascular health:
Good nutrition is essential for a healthy immune system so it’s vital to eat well when viruses are circulating. Eating a balanced diet will help to keep you and your immune system healthy:
- Include a range of different fruits and vegetables in your diet to get plenty of vitamins and minerals
- Try to eat fruits and vegetables of different colours as they contain different kinds of nutrients
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of wholegrains and protein
- Avoid unhealthy fatty and sugary foods
The best way to get the nutrition you need is through a healthy diet, but supplements can make up for anything that is lacking in your food.
A multivitamin supplement can top up any vitamins you’re missing out on, but there are some vitamins that could be particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Vitamin D is the nutrient that people in the UK are most likely to lack, especially when we aren’t spending much time outside as sunshine helps our bodies to process it
- Vitamin K helps to regulate blood clotting so some scientists believe it might help protect against COVID-19 complications, although the evidence is limited
- Vitamin C is important for our immune systems so it can be a good idea to take a supplement if you’re not getting enough from your diet
Make sure to read the labels on nutritional supplements and don’t take more than one supplement containing the same nutrient. Too much of a particular vitamin can be harmful.
Other ways to boost your immune system during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Getting regular exercise can improve your general health as well as your immune system
- Making sure you are sleeping well can keep your immune system at its best
- Managing your stress levels can prevent your mood from weakening your immune system
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to look after your heart, but it is important to make sure that you are exercising safely. Many people have been inspired to start exercising during the COVID-19 lockdown but rushing into it could put your health at risk, especially if you have a heart condition. Here are our tips on starting to exercise safely so that you can improve your heart health without risking injuries or triggering your symptoms.
Continue reading How to Start Exercising Safely?
Advice for patients with underlying heart conditions
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