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British Heart Foundation
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Tests for underlying heart conditions

Hi all!

I’m new to this community, I have recently decided I want to do a full marathon, I have completed 4 half marathons, I regularly run, approx 40 miles a week which is gradually increasing for my marathon training. My mum is concerned, there is a great deal of heart attacks in our family, both of my grandads passed of heart attacks, my grandma a silent heart attack, and my mum has a list of cousins and uncles who have had heart attacks one being same age as me and very active, they were all male apart from my grandma, so maybe it’s just the males. To put my mums mind at rest, and now my husband is there a test that I can have done to see if I have an underlying heart condition?

Thanks

Kim

5 Replies
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I suspect there are only a limited number of tests the NHS would carry out if you have no symptoms of heart disease. The first this is to make sure you are doing everything to look after yourself; eating a healthy low fat diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, drinking moderately and definitely not smoking. As you have done a number of half marathons I am confident all these apply already. The first two basic tests that you should have done are BP and cholesterol. There are various other blood tests like Lp(a) that shows a genetic disposition to CVD – I asked for this but did not get it. Unless there is something serious going on I think a resting ECG shows very little (a friend passed one as part of a company medical and had a heart attack three days later). A stress ECG might be useful as could an echocardiogram. However, with no symptoms you might have to go privately to get these done. Other tests are more invasive and carry risks that would normally b deemed unacceptable unless the patient had symptoms like chest pain, breathlessness, etc.

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If you don’t have one already, get a BP machine and keep track of your BP. If your resting BP is high then you might want to consider a conversation with your GP. You might also want to lay out your family history with your GP and see if you can get a cholesterol level done (it’s not necessarily an indicator of heart issues, but it’s the commonest blood test used in by GPS to determine if there might be an underlying issue).

Other than these two things, I think I’m with MichaelJH, you are looking at a 24 hour ECG, possibly an echocardiogram, maybe even a stress echo. These are all noninvasive but I think you’ll likely have to go privately unless you can convince your GP otherwise. I know a private cardiology appointment will come in around £200 and a private echocardiogram around £3-400.

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Thank you both, well I feel more confident to think it is unlikely I have anything underlying, I have blood pressure taken regularly as I am on contraception and is always normal to low, my resting heart rate is 55, I recently had bloods done for mouth ulcers which kept coming back, cholesterol was done on that and fine. Don’t drink or smoke and always try keep my macros balanced (unless it’s pizza night 😃) Next time I am at my doctors I will just make her aware I am planning on doing a full marathon, and mention the heart disease in my family, see if she feels any concern. By the sounds of it apart from the ECG I think I’ve had everything else tested anyway 😊😊

Thank you for your help

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The GP can do a QRISK2 assessment which is their calculation for risks by putting you cholesterol, BP, weight etc in a formula. However, I am not sure it has much more value than good guesswork. I had a private CT scan which showed up calcification in my arteries - this is a more accurate way to find out the state of your arteries but they wouldn’t normally do them if you are under 40 years old and don’t think it is normally available on NHS yet.

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Hi Kim,

You are considered to have a family history of cardiovascular disease if:

•your father or brother was under the age of 55 when they were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or

•your mother or sister was under the age of 65 when they were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

I would discuss your family history with your GP who can do a range of checks on your heart health including heart rate, blood pressure, an ECG test and a cholesterol blood test to see if this is elevated (this could show whether someone has the inherited form high cholesterol known as Familial hypercholesterolemia (or FH). There is more information on this on our website.

If you still have further questions and want to talk to a cardiac nurse please call us on 0300 330 3311 (calls are a similar cost to 01 or 02 numbers). The Heart Helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Take care,

Emily

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