Nov 25, 2022 Heart Tests for Everybody

physician listening to patient's heart

A Guide to Cardiac Checkups That Can Protect Your Health—or Save Your Life

The heart is the most important muscle in your body, pumping nutrient-rich blood, helping you function and giving you life. In some cases, your heart provides warning signs of a problem, but many times it doesn’t. Understanding your heart health can guide you to potentially lifesaving procedures such as elective angioplasty. If basic screening tests such as those for blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol find reasons for concern, you and your doctor may want to investigate further using measures like these.

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)

What it is: A test that measures electrical activity in your heart as it beats.

What it Can Reveal: Abnormal electrical activity that can indicate conditions such as irregular heartbeat, clogged arteries, heart damage, heart failure or a heart attack.

Learn more about Electrocardiograms


What it is: An ultrasound scan that generates measurements as well as images of the heart’s interior.

What it Can Reveal: Information about your heart’s size, shape, movement, strength and function, including problems such as faulty valves, structural abnormalities, heart attack damage, inflammation and heart failure.

Learn more about Echocardiograms

Exercise Stress Test

What it is: A test that tracks heart rate, blood pressure and electrical rhythms as you walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike.

What it Can Reveal: How your heart responds to exertion—for example, if enough blood flows to your heart or heart rhythms are normal as you become more active.

Learn more about Stress Tests

Chest X-Ray

What it is: A black-and-white, 2D image that shows your bones, lungs and heart.

What it Can Reveal: Conditions such as fluid buildup resulting from congestive heart failure, problems with blood vessels near the heart and abnormalities in the heart’s size and shape.

Learn more about X-Rays

Nuclear Stress Test

What it is: A test similar to an exercise stress test but with images. A small amount of radioactive dye is injected; then sets of images are taken with a special camera showing the heart while the patient is at rest and after exertion.

What it Can Reveal: Additional information if exercise stress test results are unclear.

Learn more about Stress Tests

CT Scan

What it is: An imaging method called computed tomography (CT) in which X-rays taken from multiple angles produce detailed, 3D images of the heart and its arteries.

What it Can Reveal: Problems such as substances in coronary arteries, valve abnormalities, inflammation and pumping deficiencies.

Learn more about CT Scans

Coronary Calcium Scoring

What it is: An imaging exam that uses CT to detect calcium in coronary arteries.

What it Can Reveal: Plaque formation ranging from early to heavy. The test’s score can indicate your risk of a heart attack before you experience symptoms. Consult your doctor to determine if a calcium score is right for you.

Learn more about Coronary Calcium Scoring

What is Angioplasty?

Sometimes called cardiac catheterization or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), angioplasty is a potentially lifesaving procedure in which a cardiologist inserts a thin tube called a catheter into a blood vessel and threads it to your heart. Typically done in a hospital catheterization (cath) lab under light sedation, the procedure allows doctors to obtain images that show if (or how badly) coronary arteries are blocked and, if needed, improve any blockages and keep blood vessels open using a mesh stent. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton is now certified to perform this procedure not only on an emergency basis during a crisis such as a heart attack but also as an elective procedure to catch and correct problems before they become life threatening.

Whoever your heart beats for, our hearts beat for you. To connect with a top cardiovascular specialist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, call 888-724-7123.