DIY cardiology testing?

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
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What are some at home tests one can do to ensure heart health? Blood pressure monitor is probably one way. What about some kind of stress test? If you can run a decent distance without feeling any chest pain is that a good indication your heart and arteries are fine? What about at home ECG? Maybe even blood sugar level tests? I think that plays a big role too. I was curious and checked and these are all machines you can just buy on Amazon. I don't know how good they are though.

Heart issues do run in the family, my dad started at 39, with 4 blockages at 95% which he eventually got fixed via angiplasti. He's been through like 10+ of those including a bypass since then. Recently we had a huge scare and almost lost him. It definitely was an eye opener and made me realize, being 33, I'm really not that far from the age he was when it all started. I eat better than he did and I also don't smoke, but some way of being reassured I'm ok would be nice. I heard of a CAC test but doctors don't tend to want to send you for stuff like that unless you are already sick. I don't want to wait until I'm sick. Just wondering what my options are for DIY tests? I'm fairly confident I'm doing fine, but it's always nice to have reassurance.

Either way I really do need to change my diet, I don't eat SUPER bad, but I could definitely make some improvements. It would be nice to get to a point where I pretty much eliminate carbs but I find it's so hard as it greatly reduces the amount of meal ideas as there's carbs in almost everything. Ex: rice, pasta, and bread products alone can make a lot of different meals. I need to make these changes but it's just hard figuring out new meal ideas that don't have carbs without them being boring and repetitious.

Then there's also the fact that there's so much conflicting information when it comes to nutrition so it's really hard to even know what's good and what's bad. One paper says carbs are bad and fats are good, while another says carbs arn't a big deal as long as there's fibre with it, and that fat is bad etc. So much contradiction everywhere.
 

TheVrolok

Lifer
Dec 11, 2000
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See a doctor and discuss your concerns.

There's no such thing as a DIY cardiac evaluation. That's what medical school, residency, and possibly fellowship are for.

Absent any symptoms concerning for active coronary disease, there isn't any recommended screening beyond possibly checking your cholesterol given that family history.

You mentioned CAC scoring. It's been around for awhile, but has only recently made it more formally into guidelines and there is a possibility that it could be of use in risk stratification for you. Possibly.

Eat right. Exercise. See a doctor to discuss your concerns. Don't order stuff off the Internet.

As Michael Pollan would say, eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Vegetable proteins are more healthy than animal proteins. Carbs, in moderation, are fine. Just eat healthy ones. Healthy is actually fairly straightforward, the less processed the better (whole grains, natural, etc.). Easy rules of thumb are the less ingredients the better, if you can pronounce/recognize all the ingredients on the list, the better.

Edit: Wanted to add something because of something you said about reassurance. I know that it seems to make sense that just getting a test for reassurance is logical or rational, but it can be far from that. Consider base rate bias (false positive paradox), Bayes theorm, etc. Etc. There is a lot that goes into ordering/evaluating medical testing (or really any testing) that "is it positive or negative" because those results aren't quite as literally binary as it may intuitively seem. That's what your doctor is hopefully considering, in addition to the relevant pathophysiology, clinical history, guidelines, etc.
 
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WelshBloke

Lifer
Jan 12, 2005
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Why the hell would you try to DIY that at home rather than see someone that has the correct equipment and has studied for decades to interpret that equipment?
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
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Why the hell would you try to DIY that at home rather than see someone that has the correct equipment and has studied for decades to interpret that equipment?
Like I said. I already saw a doctor and he did nothing. Doctors won't do any testing unless you are already sick. It's too late at that point. Doctors now days are reactive not proactive. That, and they'll just put you on pills instead of working with you to prevent/fix any issues.

Either way I should be living a healthy life style anyway, but still good to make sure I'm actually on track. With nutrition being more complicated than rocket science, it's easy to THINK you're eating healthy and then realize that something you're doing is not healthy. Eggs are a good example, some people say the middle part is bad, some say it's good. Which is it? Who knows. All I can do is eat it in moderation and hope I'm safe.

CAC test is the best bet but obviously not DIYable. I think even any at home test would only start showing results when it's too late.

I feel a lot of heart related problems today (which is one of leading cause of death) could be prevented if early testing was actually done. They do it for cancer (mamograms for women, prostate check for men etc) not sure why they don't for heart.
 

snoopy7548

Diamond Member
Jan 1, 2005
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Find a better doctor. There are many that are proactive and won't just write prescriptions, and will consider your families medical history. Your bloodwork should give a good indication of your overall health, including your risk for heart problems.

Carbs aren't bad in moderation. Replace enriched flour-based breads with whole wheat, and eat rice or potatoes instead of pasta with most meals.
 

highland145

Lifer
Oct 12, 2009
40,150
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When I turned 50, I asked for a nuclear stress test because I wanted to know. I had to pay for it though.

Friend was having some minor problems but major heart disease in the family. They did a calcium channel scan...meh. Stress test...meh. For whatever reason, they did a heart cath...woah, triple bypass before he went home. So, what the guys have said above. Exercise, proper diet, cholesterol/bp.
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
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Find a better doctor. There are many that are proactive and won't just write prescriptions, and will consider your families medical history. Your bloodwork should give a good indication of your overall health, including your risk for heart problems.

Carbs aren't bad in moderation. Replace enriched flour-based breads with whole wheat, and eat rice or potatoes instead of pasta with most meals.
I'm lucky to even have a family doctor, a lot of people have been on the list for years. If you already have one it's pretty much impossible to switch.

Funny what you say about whole wheat because it reflects what I said about how complicated nutrition is. You said you should go whole wheat and lot of others say that too, but yet meanwhile there's just as many people who say to avoid it and if you're going to eat bread to go white but either one is bad. So which is it?

Been thinking of looking into a nutritionist but supposedly even they differ. One will say one thing and the other will say another thing. Seems nobody has the science down on nutrition yet.
 

balloonshark

Diamond Member
Jun 5, 2008
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There is nothing wrong with eating whole food carbs. There are people on this planet that eat 80% whole food carbs in their diet and they don't have the health problems we have and they live to 100. Whole food carbs = Good. Refined carbs = Bad.

If you having trouble getting it up that could be an early sign of heart disease. Given you father's history your doctor should be more proactive as should you. If he doesn't know about his history let him know since it's important.

Like others have said eat mostly whole plant foods. Try to get exercise daily. Also try to reduce or deal with stress better. Believe it or not cleaning up your diet and exercise can help with stress and sleep.
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
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My doctor is also my dad's doctor so he knows. He says the same "just eat healthy". But that on it's own means nothing when the science on what eating healthy actually means differs between each person/resource you ask. I like to think I'm on a decent path and I feel ok, but without knowing 100% what's good and not good for me, I'm kinda blind.
 

highland145

Lifer
Oct 12, 2009
40,150
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If you having trouble getting it up that could be an early sign of heart disease. Given you father's history your doctor should be more proactive as should you. If he doesn't know about his history let him know since it's important.
Check the pulse in your ankle. Doc said it was a fair indicator. No idea if it's true.
 

balloonshark

Diamond Member
Jun 5, 2008
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My doctor is also my dad's doctor so he knows. He says the same "just eat healthy". But that on it's own means nothing when the science on what eating healthy actually means differs between each person/resource you ask. I like to think I'm on a decent path and I feel ok, but without knowing 100% what's good and not good for me, I'm kinda blind.
The people that produce unhealthy foods try to sow doubt and confusion with their half-baked studies. They are literally using the same tactics as big tobacco. They want to you throw your hands up in the air and say "oh well, I'm going to die some day anyways. I may as well be happy and eat what I want.".

The new Canadian food guidelines recently changed for the better. It's what happens when you exclude special interests and let facts dictate policy.

If you have netflix and get a chance watch "Forks Over Knives". It leaves netflix at the end of the month though.
 

TheVrolok

Lifer
Dec 11, 2000
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CAC test is the best bet but obviously not DIYable. I think even any at home test would only start showing results when it's too late.
"Best" is an incredibly challenging word to pin down. Best for what? CAC has some value (I'm my opinion, and I think the literature bears this out), but, like all tests, only in the appropriate situations. Have you at least had your cholesterol levels checked? That would be a very reasonable place to start if you've never had them checked.

I feel a lot of heart related problems today (which is one of leading cause of death) could be prevented if early testing was actually done. They do it for cancer (mamograms for women, prostate check for men etc) not sure why they don't for heart.
This is an extremely loaded statement, containing a great deal of irony. We actually have significant BACKED OFF mammography and prostate cancer screening because it was doing more HARM than benefit we originally appreciated (on a population level).

When I turned 50, I asked for a nuclear stress test because I wanted to know. I had to pay for it though.

Friend was having some minor problems but major heart disease in the family. They did a calcium channel scan...meh. Stress test...meh. For whatever reason, they did a heart cath...woah, triple bypass before he went home. So, what the guys have said above. Exercise, proper diet, cholesterol/bp.
This is interesting for a number of reasons. If you were average risk and asymptomatic (making an assumption here) at the time you turned 50 and got your "nuke" there is a very high probability that a positive result would have been incorrectly positive had you gotten one (false positive). Your second anecdote is equally interesting for essentially the same reason, if he had a "good story" for cardiac problems (read: appropriate clinical history) with risk factors then those tests being negative (or borderline) is not helpful and the cath may have been the right step from the beginning. Both of your points are laden with biostatistics that are incredibly germane to this discussion.

My doctor is also my dad's doctor so he knows. He says the same "just eat healthy". But that on it's own means nothing when the science on what eating healthy actually means differs between each person/resource you ask. I like to think I'm on a decent path and I feel ok, but without knowing 100% what's good and not good for me, I'm kinda blind.
As balloonshark has been saying, it really isn't that complicated. It's been "made complicated" by people trying to make a buck. Sure, is there some physiologic basis for intermittent fasting, carb cycling, etc... Yeah, there actually is, but it's incredibly niche in terms of utility. I provided some information above. Additionally, if someone is trying to "sell you something" (whether that's a physical product or a diet plan) you should be weary.

Keep it basic, here's a copy/paste from Michael Pollan's 7 commonly cited "rules:"

  1. Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. "When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can't pronounce, ask yourself, "What are those things doing there?" Pollan says.
  2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.
  3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
  4. Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot. "There are exceptions -- honey -- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food," Pollan says.
  5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. "Always leave the table a little hungry," Pollan says. "Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, 'Tie off the sack before it's full.'"
  6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It's a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. "Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?" Pollan asks.
  7. Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.


The people that produce unhealthy foods try to sow doubt and confusion with their half-baked studies. They are literally using the same tactics as big tobacco. They want to you throw your hands up in the air and say "oh well, I'm going to die some day anyways. I may as well be happy and eat what I want.".

The new Canadian food guidelines recently changed for the better. It's what happens when you exclude special interests and let facts dictate policy.

If you have netflix and get a chance watch "Forks Over Knives". It leaves netflix at the end of the month though.
Completely agreed. Forks Over Knives is a good watch. I would also recommend "In Defense of Food" if you can find it (this is another Michael Pollan piece). I'm a fairly big Michael Pollan fan, I think he's a good writer with good ideas and he keeps it fairly basic.
 

highland145

Lifer
Oct 12, 2009
40,150
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This is interesting for a number of reasons. If you were average risk and asymptomatic (making an assumption here) at the time you turned 50 and got your "nuke" there is a very high probability that a positive result would have been incorrectly positive had you gotten one (false positive). Your second anecdote is equally interesting for essentially the same reason, if he had a "good story" for cardiac problems (read: appropriate clinical history) with risk factors then those tests being negative (or borderline) is not helpful and the cath may have been the right step from the beginning. Both of your points are laden with biostatistics that are incredibly germane to this discussion.
I wasn't having any symptoms but my cholesterol was over 300 for a long time...Thanks, Dad..and I just wanted to make sure. 6 days of cardio/wk probably helped. I have been taking my meds since then. I'm still at 200 but the hdl is upper 80's.

My friend probably didn't have the cath 1st because of insurance requiring the other steps.
 

TheVrolok

Lifer
Dec 11, 2000
22,988
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I wasn't having any symptoms but my cholesterol was over 300 for a long time...Thanks, Dad..and I just wanted to make sure. 6 days of cardio/wk probably helped. I have been taking my meds since then. I'm still at 200 but the hdl is upper 80's.

My friend probably didn't have the cath 1st because of insurance requiring the other steps.
Damn that HDL is legit. I am jealous.
 

highland145

Lifer
Oct 12, 2009
40,150
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Damn that HDL is legit. I am jealous.
6 fish oil caps/day...I swear by it. When I was single (23 years ago), I was in the best shape of my life. Body fat just under 10%, lots of cardio, low fat diet. My total was 160ish but the hdl was under 30. Late 30's, my knees/shoulders were becoming problematic, inflammation and all. Read up on it and fish oil was a recommendation. Helped the knees/shoulders but the hdl boost was a very pleasant benefit.

I do bruise easier though.
 

Iron Woode

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 10, 1999
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as someone born with heart problems and dealing with them now, all I can say is see a cardiologist if you want to know what is going on in there.
 
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Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
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Never thought of getting a cardiologist though not sure how easy that is when you don't actually have problems. Can I just ask my doctor to be referred to one? How does that work?

Maybe I'm just being paranoid too, but I just like the idea of at very least being more aware of how I'm doing in that department rather than be blind and assume I'm ok.

The first step is getting my nutrition in better check, but like I said it's just hard to know what changes to even make when all the information I read/watch differs.

For a while I've been cutting back on the obviously bad stuff like processed foods, pop, junk food etc (still have it and could afford to reduce even more mind you) but even if I cut that stuff out 100% I feel I could do even better if I could just figure out 100% what's healthy and what's not but there's just so much conflicting information.
 

highland145

Lifer
Oct 12, 2009
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Just call your Dr but you are in Canukistan...

Are you exercising? IIRC, recovery rate of your heart rate is an indicator. My goal on the spin bike is a sustained 145bpm. If I stop and just sit at the end, I'll drop 40 beats in the 1st min. And don't think I'm a fitness machine. 6'1", 55 y.o., 210lbs fat guy. My cadrio's just pretty good because I've been doing it for a long time.

And my post #16, I think part of my hdl problem was that I was getting very little fat, good or bad, in my diet.

diet>>>>exercise.
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
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Good to know about recovery time, will have to check that. So if it takes too long to recover then it's probably a bad indicator? I don't do much cardio, mostly weight lifting and walking but I can probably add cardio as well. I have an exercise bike but I find it feels more like resistive training than actual cardio. Hard to explain but it just does not feel the same as riding an actual bike and I don't really feel like I'm giving myself a good cardio workout. I should probably get a gazelle or treadmill or similar machine instead.

I exercise on and off, but started back up now that summer is over. I tend to take a break in the summer months since I spend more time outside while the weather is nice, going for walks etc so it somewhat makes up for it. Though I started going for walks even in winter now, I just don't tend to go as far since the air is cold on the lungs.
 

highland145

Lifer
Oct 12, 2009
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For the record, I fucking hate the spin bike. I fucking hate winter and cold weather for biking. Give me 98F any fucking day.

Whew, got that out of my system...the bike is resistance. That's why I want to monitor my HR when biking at the gym. Resistance/cadence/variances in rate/hydration...On the old Schwinns, I could add or subtract 1/4 turn to get my hr where I wanted. Granted, I was more intent then. On the new ones, they have a really nice gear system. Anyway, figure out where you're at. Work it to get better. It is legs but also heart. See what your heart does, before, during, after and with different resistances.

My resting rate is still 45bpm...old, fat guy.
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
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45 bpm? Is your heart a diesel? lol. That seems really low isin't it? Or is mine high? I just tested now and I'm at 70.

It's better than like 150bpm when I did weed though... Maybe that is proof enough that my heart is healthy if that didn't kill me. lol.
 

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