What is Cardiovascular Screening?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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In medicine, when people are screened for disease, they undergo several tests or examinations to help rule out or rule in factors that may suggest its presence. Cardiovascular screening, which may vary in intensity of testing, evaluates people for different forms of heart disease and stroke. There are differing guidelines for who should receive this type of screening and exactly how extensive screening needs to be.

In many cases, cardiovascular screening is performed on people beginning in their 40s or early 50s. When people are eligible for this testing, from an insurance perspective, depends on the other risk factors they have, suggesting elevated risk for heart disease. For those appearing relatively healthy, with no family history of heart disease, no presence of illness like diabetes, and no markers such as obesity or smoking, screening initially takes place for people at the age of 50. This could all change if folks have several risk factors for heart disease, and in routine physical examinations doctors are likely to assess present risk and determine if cardiovascular screening is needed sooner.


The simplest type of screening is a blood test that evaluates different aspects of the blood. One of the most important measurements is cholesterol level. Higher cholesterol might indicate development of plaque in the arteries, and this creates risk for damage to the coronary arteries and stroke. Should cholesterol levels be high, doctors might create a plan with patients to reduce levels using diet, medication, or a combination of the two.

Sometimes cardiovascular screening becomes more extensive and the need for greater testing depends on varying factors. If a patient shows signs he or she may already have some form of heart disease, doctors might want more concise pictures of what is occurring. In addition to blood testing, they might have patients undergo an electrocardiogram (EKG) to assess heart rhythm. Other scans could be suggested, such as echocardiogram or sonogram of the heart. Exercise testing is another potential way to view the heart’s efficiency and capability as it works harder.

Though it’s often the case that cardiovascular screening is performed on people in middle age and older, this group is not the only one that benefits from such evaluation. Most physician groups strongly recommend that any athletes at the middle school, high school, college level and beyond also receive cardiovascular screening. These screenings, when comprehensive, tend to involve EKG, echocardiogram and blood testing. They are performed to catch any athletes at risk for sudden cardiac death while exerting.

Screening is a means of catching disease before a lot of symptoms emerge. If people note symptoms they think might be cardiovascular disease before they are eligible for screenings, they still need to bring these to the attention of their physicians. Cardiac disease can occur much earlier, in a smaller group of people. Early diagnosis and treatment can be useful in preventing more damage to the cardiovascular system.


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